For years, not having classes on Fridays has been a part of Duke’s culture. For many students and professors, a three day weekend has become the norm, and instead of dedicating Friday to classtime, students devote the last day of the typical work week to meetings, errands and catching up on sleep.
Last week, however, a new class schedule—featuring a greater number of period one classes, more classes on Fridays and 50-minute classes nestled within longer 75-minute blocks—debuted, and many students found themselves in the unusual position of spending Friday in a classroom. The new schedule, a plan over a year in the making, seems positioned to achieve some of the University's goals but fall short in other areas.
The timing of classes, both on Friday and in the morning, seems to be one of the more important issues to students. Under the new schedule, the earliest class period was moved from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. What the University neglected to consider, however, was that the number of students now enrolled in the period one class block has exploded, with nearly 3,000 students taking 8:30 a.m. or 8:45 a.m. classes. It is not in the University’s best interest to force so many students into early classes. College students are notorious for having erratic sleeping habits and for staying up unusually late. Most students will perform better in classes starting later in the day.
A similar cultural observance can be seen in Friday classes. By forcing Friday classes, the University seems to be trying its hand at social engineering and attempting to discourage a Thursday night social scene. Students, however, are likely to keep going out Thursday nights, regardless. Instead, attendance to Friday classes will probably fall, to the disadvantage of both students and professors.
The University, however, did not implement the new class schedule without thought and purpose. The attempts to spread out classes may prove beneficial to some students. Also, the best asset of the new schedule thus far seems to be the relief it has given to mid-day demand for lunch and bus services. The new format gives students time to sit down for lunch with friends and the lines at popular dining locations and at the bus stop have been noticeably shorter.
The principal drawback of the new plan is that it has left insufficient time for extracurricular meetings. In years past, Friday afternoons have been a time when groups could meet because most of their members did not have class. So far this year, some groups have had difficulty scheduling meetings. This is a problem that the University needs to address if it does not want to risk losing some of the student activity on campus.
The new schedule is here to stay, but as the year progresses, the University should continue to search for ways to alleviate persistent problems arising from the schedule—from the potential for sleep deprivation to the need for more meeting time—in order to best serve students.
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