Losing the popularity contest

Over the past week, I’ve received overwhelmingly negative feedback from St. John’s students about the schedule change that will be implemented for the fall 2010 semester.

For some, the article printed in the TORCH last week was the first they heard of it, and a few left comments on our Web site, complaining about the logistics of the new schedule and stating that they had never heard that this change was going to take place.

Father Harrington sent an e-mail to faculty and administrators last Monday, and that is how many other students found out about the University’s upcoming decision. Yet the student body is the largest group that will be impacted, so why wasn’t Father Harrington’s e-mail sent to the entire student body? If students had gotten this information directly from the University instead of finding out from another source, the reactions may not have been as negative.

Last year, Student Government handed out cards to students on campus, asking them what university policies they would like to see changed.

But this change comes as a major surprise though, since plans to overhaul the schedule in time for the fall 2009 semester were dropped; and not only that, the terms of the new schedule are different than what the University had originally proposed.

The new schedule calls for 85-minute classes that meet Monday/Thursday and Tuesday/Friday, and three hour classes that meet Wednesday and Saturday.

The schedule that the University initially proposed in 2008 would have eliminated Friday classes, but Student Life was afraid that the University would become a four-day-a-week school.

I’m not sure that this would be such a bad thing. What student doesn’t want a three-day weekend? I don’t have any Friday classes this semester, and after working hard the rest of the week, I always look forward to having that extra day off from school. Free Fridays could also offer students more fl exibility in terms of finding a part-time job or an internship. And, it would give students a day to catch up, or get ahead with school work.

In some ways, St. John’s already is a four-day-a week university. Many students only have classes only on Tuesday and Thursday; some professors hold online discussions on Friday instead of having the class meet; and other students start the weekend early by skipping class on Friday. With the new schedule, there’s still a good chance that these things won’t change.

But the elimination of common hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a facet of the new schedule, is going to be more detrimental to student engagement than the threat of a vacant St. John’s on the weekends.

Starting next semester, common hour will be held on Wednesdays only. How will students be able to participate in multiple activities if there is only going to be one hour a week allotted for organizations to hold meetings? This may actually hurt student participation, which is already low at St. John’s.

The elimination of common hour on Tuesdays
and Thursdays is going to change the way every student organization operates. For example, at the TORCH, Wednesday is too late in the week to assign articles for an upcoming issue. Although we could always email our writers earlier in the week, it’s much more meaningful to have a conversation in person.

By only having one common hour instead of two, the TORCH, along with other organizations, might even face more difficulty recruiting and keeping new members.

Last week, Dr. Julia Upton, university provost, told me that the decision to change the schedule is not a “popularity contest,” and that “it’s a decision based on what’s going to make a better University.”

Students who are upset should do whatever
they can to have their opinions heard: write a letter to the TORCH, contact a Student Government representative, attend a town hall or organizational congress meeting, try to speak with administrators.

Although the decision to overhaul the University’s scheduling options may not be based on a popularity contest, students are the ones paying thousands of dollars a year to be at St. John’s, so it’s only fair that they have a schedule that pleases them. Because so many students are frustrated about the upcoming changes, the University should reconsider its decision.