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Mills may increase Friday and night course offerings

“The Big Board” displays all of the English courses offered at Mills and when they are scheduled. The English Department uses this board to organize each semester’s course schedule. (Amber Mendoza)

The college administration is considering adding more classes on Fridays, evenings and weekends to accommodate a student body with diverse scheduling needs.

While the math and science departments have always offered classes on Friday, many other departments such as English and the School of Education have scheduled the bulk of their classes between Monday and Thursday, according to the Mills College course schedule.

Sandra Greer, Provost and Dean of Faculty at Mills, feels that Mills is not in sync with the rest of the academic world in its scheduling.

“I’d like course offerings to be more evenly distributed,” she said. “It is my view that we should be on the same system.” Many other colleges in the CSU and UC system offer Friday classes to undergraduates in all departments, including English. Saint Mary’s, UC Merced, CSU Long Beach, and UC Santa Cruz are a few colleges that utilize Friday’s for a Monday, Wednesday, Friday slot.

Kathy Schultz, Dean of the School of Education, said one reason for the college’s lack of Friday classes may stem from the fact that 40% of the Mills student body is made up of graduate students, who typically do not have classes on Fridays.

“We are mostly a graduate school,” Schultz said. “ Graduate schools in general don’t have classes on Friday.”

While some students applaud the proposed change, a recent survey of 86 students conducted by ASMC and The Campanil found more than half were concerned that Friday courses would interfere with their study and relaxation time.

“I really relish having a three day weekend,” one student said in the survey.

“I’d prefer more morning classes. I like the nighttime for studying and personal time,” said Meghan Hinsch, an undergraduate Research Psychology student.

Fifty-nine percent of students did not want additional courses offered on Friday’s, while 23% had no preference. Many said they depended on having Fridays off to work on homework and spend time off campus.

Each department at Mills has a different process to create course schedules. Smaller departments, such as History tend to discuss their schedules in a once per semester small group meeting, whereas larger departments like English engage in a juggling act of post-it notes and emails.

“There are 58 courses per semester planned and/or scheduled within the English department alone,” said Tonianne Nemeth, the Executive Assistant of the English Department at Mills who has managed the English schedule for the past 12 years.

Nemeth said making changes to the course schedule is difficult to manage because of the number of factors involved.

“Once I move something, it can affect something else. It’s a domino effect,” she said.

In order to handle all of the variables while creating a schedule, Nemeth uses what is known as “The Big Board,” a system placed on a large poster board with color-coded post-it notes spread out among a large weekly calendar.

“This thing was here before I was,” Nemeth said.

The Sciences do not struggle with an even dispersement of courses, but with the availability of appropriate space.

“The way we schedule has to do with facilities,” said Elisabeth Wade, a Mills Chemistry Professor. “We’re running six labs a week in general chemistry, and seven labs per week of organic chemistry. Anything we change, we’ve got to figure out how to make the labs work.”

The various science departments at Mills tend to hold their lecture courses for 50 minute periods, early in the day on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule in order to accommodate for the large amount of information that is delivered during one lecture.

“There’s a lot of new information and problem solving,” Wade said. “It’s hard for students to focus for longer than 45 minutes without getting tired.”

Nearly all classes at Mills include a total of 150 minutes of instruction per week, regardless of department. Students have different preferences about how this class time is broken up throughout their schedule.

“I want to get in all of my course time in as few trips as possible, because I am a working professional and commuter,” one student said in the survey.

However, 88% of students desired a schedule that holds classes two to three times per week for approximately 75 minutes.

“I have a tough time concentrating for too long of a time and it becomes overwhelming with the amount of information. However, I feel like 50 minutes for a class doesn’t allow the professor enough time to include everything necessary,” another student said.

There is no definitive timeline for when these changes will take place, if at all.

“I am currently meeting with department chairs individually to talk about scheduling,” Greer said.

Mills has struggled for many years to create a schedule that accommodates its myriad of students.

“I have no idea what students want. I’d like to know,” Nemeth said.

Greer said she hopes to conduct a large-scale survey for students in an effort to bridge communication between faculty and students on scheduling needs. However, Mills has not been able to pinpoint an exact formula for course scheduling for years.

“This has been an issue ever since I’ve been at Mills,” said Bert Gordon, a History Professor at Mills since 1969. “I don’t know how many Provosts have torn their hair out trying to figure this problem out. Maybe what Mills really needs is more than 24 hours in a day.”

These graphs represent data from a survey conducted by the Associated Students of Mills College (ASMC) and The Campanil.

The majority of surveryers supported adding more Friday classes.
The majority of surveyers supported adding classes after 6 p.m.
Chart depicting the kinds of students who answered this survey.