At 10 a.m. on Sept. 26, Dean Ann Velenchik sent out a campus-wide email with the subject, “College Announcement: Changes to the Weekly Schedule Effective Spring 2019.” The email detailed a new class schedule set to be implemented in Spring 2019 that has classes “meet the 150 minutes per week minimum” in compliance with federal guidelines. In this email, Dean Velenchik added that “Currently our campus standard is 140 minutes. To meet accreditation standards, Academic Council voted last spring to make changes to current legislation and practice,”
The new schedule shortens the lunch hour on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday to 55 minutes, starting from 12:35 p.m. In order to make this shift, five minutes was added to each class block. Morning classes will still start at 8:30 a.m., and afternoon classes will also still start at 1:30 p.m. According to the announcement email, the addition of five extra minutes to each block changes “neither the number nor the arrangement of the course blocks in our academic schedule.” In addition to this, evening classes will start between 6:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. and will last until no later than 10:00 p.m.
The sudden change in the future academic schedule prompted frustration from some students over the lack of transparency in decisions by upper administration. “What I mind is that as a senator I spend so much time defending the choices [administration] makes and trying to explain their actions to students who are rightfully angry, and then they do something like this where they don’t tell us that the school is behind on federal regulation,” said Catrina Chen ’21, an Executive Senator for Shafer Hall. “Like how hard would it have been to be like ‘we realized we’re missing 5 minutes per class, if you are available over the summer via email please consider applying to be on our student advisory board as we make adjustments to the schedule’ just to show that they’re committed to making choices with student input?”
There is also concern that the change in schedule will augment the stress felt by students. The extra time in classes will cut directly into time set aside for their extra-curricular activities. By shortening the lunch hour, there is fear that students may be less inclined to focus on their health and wellness. While Professor of English Literature Larry Rosenwald was not too focused on the addition of five minutes for each academic block, he expressed concern over shortening the lunch break. “I don’t like having [the lunch break] reduced, because I have a European sense that being able to be at leisure over lunch is an importantly restorative thing.” Professor Rosenwald also noted a potential rise in schedule conflicts as a result of the shortened lunch break. “And I also don’t like having that reduced because three-meetings-a-week courses that had their third meeting during the lunch hour won’t be able to do that in the future, which means, I imagine, an increase in difficulty of scheduling for students, since the third meeting will now have to be during one of the regular time slots, which means that a three-meeting course will be in conflict with more courses than before.”
When asked why the school did not institute this change earlier, in accordance with federal regulations, Dean of Academic Affairs Ann Velenchik said, “We think it is important to get to the 150-hour threshold so that compliance with regulations is not an issue for our reaccreditation … I wasn’t responsible for this issue in the past, so I don’t think I can explain why this has not come up until now.”
Dean Velenchik further elucidated, “I think that faculty will use this extra time in a number of ways, just as they use the rest of their class time in various ways. It is hard for me to imagine that a little more time would be harmful to students’ education and learning, so I would say that my guess is that it will be beneficial, since it provides faculty with a little ‘slack’ in their lesson plans that might allow for more review, or more time for questions or slowing down a bit, but I can’t guarantee that it will have any particular effect in all courses.”
The concern among students is not only limited to an increase in stress level but also the timings of some courses. Anna, a student enrolled in the Class of 2022 who chose not to give her last name, expressed her worries about having classes go on past 8:30 in the evening, which usually start at 6:00 pm. “I do worry about the impacts of having a 6:00 pm class start an hour and fifteen minutes later.”
The new schedule comes at a time when students are already trying to come to grips with the new bus schedule, which has been a source of concern to the Wellesley community. At the Senate meeting on Sept. 24, Dean Horton announced that this year will bring with it many new changes to improve the Wellesley community. However, changes in class schedules and the bus schedules have brought with them a certain concern, among students, about how they negatively impact students’ health and wellbeing, and the schedules of students taking classes off-campus.