Undergraduate students accustomed to a three-day weekend may have to enroll in classes meeting on Fridays this fall as the University copes with a shortage of classroom space. Officials said construction and a swelling student population are forcing GW to create Monday-Friday and Wednesday-Friday classes as well as cut down on the number evening classes.
Two-thirds of Funger Hall will be closed until 2007 for renovations while the University constructs the new business school facility, which will adjoin Funger. The closed Funger classrooms will be converted into School of Business and Public Management faculty offices during the construction period.
To accommodate for the loss of 17 classrooms and several faculty offices, administrators have rescheduled class times to fit classes into less space. The five academic departments currently housed in Funger – political science, economics, speech and hearing sciences, mathematics and statistics – will also move to various buildings before fall 2004.
Officials have warned of possible changes since last year, when an assessment by a Faculty Senate committee found that the University would be facing a classroom shortage in the coming years. GW’s undergraduate enrollment has increased almost 46 percent, or 3,000 students, in the last five years, according to the Office of Institutional Research.
At least 40 percent of classes using the two-day, 75-minute layout will meet on Fridays starting in the fall, said Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for academic planning and special projects. Some classes currently held on Mondays and Wednesdays will switch to either a Monday-Friday or Wednesday-Friday format. Linebaugh declined to release the specific number of classes affected.
“What we’re doing with the time bands is trying to make better use of our classroom inventory,” Linebaugh said. “What this does is create a series of classes that will meet in the same room but at different times during the week.”
The additional end-of-the-week courses will be evenly distributed among all schools at the University, with exceptions made for adjunct professors with unique scheduling constraints. The changes will not affect the Law School or School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
In addition, students will see fewer evening classes, with 90 percent of undergraduate classes set to end prior to 5 p.m., 10 percent more than this year. Officials said the change will enable the University to schedule more graduate classes in the evening to accommodate graduate students who often work during the day.
Intervals between classes will also increase from 15 to 20 minutes, officials said.
Although there are no immediate plans to schedule additional weekend classes, officials said that is also a possibility.
“What’s probably not known among many undergrads at GW is that we already have a lot of weekend classes,” Linebaugh said. “Could the day come when we might add more? It’s conceivable but not in the near term.”
Currently, some lab sections and exercise courses, among other classes, are held on the weekend.
However, several students said they are not supportive of a move to more Friday or weekend classes.
“I go out of my way to make sure I have no Friday classes,” freshman Michael Tarantino said. “The extra day off is huge. With a three-day weekend instead of two, you get time to kick back before heavy studying.”
Faculty members are also not optimistic about the changes. Some faculty members are objecting to the new format, saying it gives prime-time slots disproportionately to undergraduate students.
Political science professor Ingrid Creppell said many professors conduct research and do committee work for the University and their departments on Fridays.
Others are faulting administrators for a lack of foresight, suggesting that the current plan was hastily put together.
“The University’s had a good amount of time to figure out ways to provide additional classroom space, and in effect they’ve decided they’re just going to try to squeeze more use out of the classrooms that they have,” said William Griffith, who sits on the Faculty Senate’s fiscal planning and budget committee.
“I’m not against scheduling more classes on Friday, but I think it is going to make it increasingly difficult for the faculty to conduct its business when they start scheduling classes into Friday afternoon,” he added.
Griffith said the University has an obligation to provide students with sufficient classroom space, suggesting that the classroom crunch could be remedied by leasing additional properties to accommodate administrative offices.
Linebaugh said administrators have been anticipating the classroom loss for “some amount of time” and that purchasing new properties was unnecessary. He called the new schedule a compromise.
“Everyone knows the University needs to be very careful in how it uses its funds,” Linebaugh said. “We could conceivably go out and build new classroom space, but not if we’re not making the best use of our current classrooms.”
One of GW’s most recent additions to its classroom inventories is 1776 G Street, which the University leased in February 2002. Administrators originally intended to use the space solely for a specific graduate level program in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; however, classes in various schools currently meet there. GW also uses other untraditional spaces including the School Without Walls and a facility located at 2020 K St.
University Registrar Dennis Geyer said officials presented the plan to the Faculty Senate and that faculty members had the opportunity to “tweak it a bit.”
Linebaugh said the new class times are experimental, and adjustments are likely after next fall.
“I’m not foolish enough to think we’ve come up with the perfect plan here,” he said. “It will probably take a couple more tries to accomplish that.”