Some students registering for classes next fall may still see “classroom TBA” on their schedules as the University deals with an academic space crunch. Major building renovations in the next few years and new scheduling strategies including “reclaiming Friday” will lessen the impact of the classroom shortage, University officials said.
A report released to the Faculty Senate last week noted the number of general purpose classrooms is declining due to a growing student population and planned renovations of campus academic space.
Officials said to make up for the crunch individual departments must take scheduling procedures seriously, scheduling classes only in time slots allotted. Linebaugh said departments are given guidelines for scheduling procedures and the distribution of classes across the time span of a day, and departments failing to follow these policies made fall registration problematic.
“We waited as long as we could, but as of March 28 we still had 97 classes in the schedule that we did not have room for,” Linebaugh said, noting that the departments were then given 72 hours to rearrange the schedule. Twenty-five departments received memos citing scheduling difficulties, he said.
Changing the day and time of the class, by assigning the class to a room normally controlled by a specific department, as opposed to a traditionally general purpose room, or moving the course to the Mount Vernon Campus helped alleviate the problem, Linebaugh said.
“There were some small problems, but it was resolved easily,” said statistics department chair Tapan Kumar Nayak, noting that his department worked closely with the scheduling department throughout the process. “We are concerned (for the future) but we also trust that the people (in charge) will do their best to solve the problems.”
The current freshman and sophomore classes are among GW’s biggest ever, putting new pressure on class space as these students enter upper-level sections.
While 20 fall 2003 classes have left to be scheduled, fewer than five classes were canceled altogether, said Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for Academic Planning and Special Projects.
While the University has added more sections of many courses to accommodate the larger number of students, class space has not improved accordingly, said Craig Linebaugh,
“Increasing the size of classes is one option, but all of us would consider this undesirable,” Linebaugh said. “Building more classrooms is not a viable option – so we are looking at better ways to use the classrooms we have.”
One option is to replace the 75-minute, twice-a-week classes with 50-minute classes, three times a week, Linebaugh said, noting that similar models are being considered across the country.
In the past five years, the number of undergraduates has risen 46 percent, with the number of sections increasing 22 percent and 26 percent for lower-level undergraduate sections and upper-level undergraduate sections, respectively, according to the report.
As scheduling becomes increasingly complicated, more classes will be moved to less desirable time slots, such as 8 a.m. and 8:10 p.m., and more classes will held on Fridays, typically a day off for most GW students.
Linebaugh said the University, academically, is adapting to the large class of 2001, while in the process of working to accommodate a projected freshman class of 2,400.
Faculty Senate Chair Lilien Robinson said she was concerned increasing enrollment figures could lead to larger classes, putting excess strain on professors.
“We are not building anymore buildings and we have more students,” she said. “I don’t think it’s educationally sound to teach 300 students (at once).”
Some smaller sections of lower-level undergraduate classes might be combined to a larger lecture in order to condense class space, while upper-level undergraduate courses should not change in size.
“We have added full-time faculty to the University,” Linebaugh said. “The classroom is the toughest issue as the very large class of 2001 is moving to the upper division. But we think it’s manageable.”
Linebaugh noted it is the not the number of classrooms in all University departments that are overbooked, but the number of “general purpose classrooms” that is declining. A general purpose classroom is a room used by a variety of departments, such as many of the second-floor Funger Hall classrooms and the third-floor classrooms in the School of Media and Public Affairs.
While many of the classrooms that recently opened in the 1957 E St. facility are general purpose classrooms, teaching space was lost in Lisner and Stuart halls, which are being renovated for Law School office space.
Planned construction in Funger and Monroe halls and the Hall of Government will displace classes until the spring of 2005, officials reported to the Faculty Senate Friday.
Officials said the classroom crunch will be felt the most when most of Funger is vacated for renovations as part of a new business school project. Some of the Funger classrooms and offices will move to Old Main, but the University only plans to retain two classrooms in the F Street building.
Classroom space is also available at 2020 K St., yet no classes have been placed in the building for the fall. Linebaugh said he knows of no other buildings that are under consideration for additional classroom space.
City zoning regulations, currently being contested by GW in D.C. court, prohibit construction of non-residential facilities until the University houses 70 percent of undergraduates on campus, dampening GW plans for classroom space construction.
This article appeared in the April 17, 2003 issue of the Hatchet.