On March 21, 2019, Andy Sherman, provost and dean of the College sent a campus-wide email alerting students to upcoming schedule changes, in expectation of impending student scheduling for the fall 2019 semester. The proposed changes passed the Academic Council with a two-thirds majority. The schedule changes will be implemented next year and will also include an extension in class time –– implemented in spring 2018 –– to meet federal guidelines.
An ad-hoc committee, created in 2014, decided upon the schedule changes. The committee consisted of faculty, staff members and students in order to include the concerns and input of all communities on campus. Provost Shennan formed the committee in order to address rising concerns over schedule difficulties and overlaps faced by students. The committee was composed of five faculty members from each division of departments (Humanities, Social Sciences, and Science), three administrators and a student representative.
The committee was formed to solve three major concerns. First, students enrolled in classes, that met three times a week often, had their schedules overlap on Wednesday. Second, there was a noticeable compression in the number of classes offered relative to when they were being offered. 57 percent of the classes students wanted to enroll in fell in the same hour block (the 9-55:11-10 block) which meant many students were unable to register for either a class required for their major or they really wanted to explore. Lastly, the committee discovered that Wellesley was not able to satisfy the federal guidelines instituted under the Obama administration in 2011. These federal guidelines were put into effect to protect students in for-profit colleges by improving accountability and improving student lives.
These three concerns together kick started the committee’s work for the next four years and led to proposals and discussions between students, faculty and administration which lasted for four years, in an effort to improve student academics. The committee then made several prototypes, and began asking for student and faculty input on the prototypes. In 2017, the committee held six focus groups with students from all the three divisions, where they discussed the effectiveness of the prototypes to solve this problem and alleviate student concerns. Professor Stacie Goddard and Professor Alex Diesl sat with the students who came from departments ranging from languages to lab sciences and opened a conversation on how students might balance their class schedules and avoid converging blocks. The process of trial and error also led the committee to reach out to the larger student body, through presentations to College Government and holding fireside chats to involve students in the creative process.
The new changes will keep similar class blocks but move them around to further accommodate classes and prevent overlaps. Classes that meet thrice a week will still meet three times a week but two of them will be 75 minutes while the class on Wednesday will be 50 minutes, eliminating the overlap problem previously found. Community time has been moved to Thursday from 12:45 to 2:10 p.m.. On Tuesdays and Fridays, classes will end by 3:25 and 3:35 respectively. The new and flexible class times will allow departments to spread out their courses in order for students to have more opportunities to take classes they would otherwise be unable to.
To address the failure to meet federal guidelines, the committee implemented longer class times of 75 minutes. Originally, classes met for 70 minutes. This change was already executed at the start of this semester and will continue next semester as well.
The new schedule still has at least one overlap for people taking classes, which meet three times a week from 8:30 to 9:45 on Monday Thursday and Tuesday Friday or people taking a class, also meeting three times a week, on Monday Thursday 3:45 to 5:10 and Tuesday Friday 2:10 to 3:25. The overlap will be on Wednesday class. According to Professor Goddard, “This was necessary to keep all of those classes scheduled during reasonable hours on Wednesday (we didn’t want courses running until 6:30 pm). The data we have suggest there aren’t too many classes in these overlapping blocks (there is no overlap on Wednesdays in the most popular blocks).” The overlap will affect a very small portion of the student body, which can be resolved on department specific bases.
A concern with this schedule is cross-registration, specifically at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Upon inquiry, Professor Goddard and Professor Diesl explained that the current Wellesley schedule already does not align with MIT because they have a different criterion for their class times. This means that regardless of scheduling changes, Wellesley students will not be greatly affected if they do cross-register at MIT.
About the new schedule, Professor Goddard remarked “There is no perfect schedule, there is no schedule that meets every need, but this process itself involved collaboration and feedback, which involved going back to the drawing board in order to make sure the department and students were part of the process.” In this new schedule, labs and seminars are not accounted for but will run according to their old schedule because they do not fit in a standard course block but run longer than other classes. Hence, this matter has been left to specific departments and will be decided upon by them.