Scheduling, not so simple

Planners and electronic calendars.� Clocks and Personal Data Assistants (PDA�s).� One would think that scheduling would be an easier part of modern life, but in fact, the entire process seems disorganized, especially at Seton Hill University (SHU).
From holidays to course scheduling, something seems a little out of whack�or is it?

By Amanda Cochran,
Planners and electronic calendars.� Clocks and Personal Data Assistants (PDA�s).� One would think that scheduling would be an easier part of modern life, but in fact, the entire process seems disorganized, especially at Seton Hill University (SHU).
From holidays to course scheduling, something seems a little out of whack�or is it?
A recent occurrence demonstrated that there is some kind of miscommunication or disconnection occurring between the SHU administration and the student body concerning holiday breaks.� Over 400 students and faculty members recently signed a petition gunning for an addition of Monday to Easter Break. The break was scheduled to end on Easter Sunday. The petition was submitted the Dean’s Office on Tuesday, April 11, 2006. Juniors Stephan Puff and Karissa Kilgore, Setonian staff writers, spearheaded the effort to add this day to the schedule.� However, it did not happen.
The subsequent question is: Why?
Rachel Ramsey, a junior, said, �What upset me was about students signing the petition and Gawelek didn’teven come out to talk to the students.�
�If over 400 students have a problem, the administration should at least take the time to listen, even if nothing can be done,� Ramsey said.
The administration’s answer: scheduling. Mary Ann Gawelek, dean of academic affairs, could not address this issue because one, she did not have the time to address it because she was taking a long-distance phone call. Two, the sheer effort of communicating this message to the entire campus would have been a grand task indeed. And three, it would affect all events on campus.
�I understood their sense of urgency (but) for students to expect me to be available at all times is impossible,� Gawelek said. �You could never change the academic schedule two or three days before a holiday unless it is an act of God.�
Point taken. However, there is more to this story. The petition itself was to question the issue of scheduling such an inopportune date for students, but not the origins of the schedule-making process that permitted this to occur.
Gawelek said that this issue was brought up two years ago when the schedule was created. That’s right folks, two years ago. Let us repeat – the SHU schedule was created two years in advance.
�It wasn’tan oversight,� Gawelek said. �There were some people that weren’thappy when the schedule was set in 2003.�
That’s a long time ago in student years (not to be confused with dog years), because, let’s face it � most of us are only here for four years, unless you are in the Education Program or like college a lot.
There is no way of knowing the schedule a year or even two in advance unless one asks for a copy from the Registrar by written request.
However, only the current academic schedule is publicized, according to Barbara Hinkle, SHU registrar, in various bill mailings and on the university’s Web site.
�I do my darndest to publicize it,� Hinkle said. �It’s only when things get kind of earth-shattering that we go to (the academic schedule).�
If the administration knew about the date’s oddity and scheduled it, why didn’tthe student’s have a say?
They did. A Seton Hill Government Association representative is always present when the schedule is decided upon to put in the students� two cents� worth.
The Setonian cannot and will not make any assumptions about what happened during the 2003 meeting, but we will note that some things are inconvenient for students when it comes to the calendar’s publicity today.
Perhaps in a petitioner’s imagination, a secret society of schedule makers congregate and plan nasty dates for future SHU student societies, leaning back in their chairs, competent masters of an uncertain future.
Reality, however, is less dramatic. As Gawelek said, we are all �obligated by the (same) schedule.�
However, the schedule makers had the comfort of gnashing their teeth and bearing it for two years, when students were blissfully ignorant, thinking of a long Easter holiday biting ears off of brown rodents. Instead, reality was cruel on Easter 2006: students gassed up their Toyotas with the last 50 bucks in their accounts for another drive back to SHU.
This Easter Break, however, is just one chip off the rabbit’s gooey chocolate ear. Hinkle said the academic schedule is created two years in advance for staff to make life decisions, among other reasons. So, too, students should also have this information for life decisions and, perhaps, earlier petitions.
As busy as students are, the academic calendar issue was a surprise. Gawelek was surprised that students were surprised.
�I�m a little concerned that no one was aware of this information,� Gawelek said.
Though students could not change this year, surely it may impact future awareness. Hinkle agreed that students should have access to the schedule earlier. When the Setonian suggested PDF files of the next two years on the SHU Web site, she said she would look into it.
Some students believe J-Term and M-Term are the culprits in the scheduling madness. Hinkle said the two additional terms make scheduling �a tad more challenging,� but they only push the calendar forward one week, in comparison to years past without them.
�You can always add another holiday somewhere,� Hinkle said. �But you are going to be making it up someplace else.�
Hinkle said changing the schedule affects the amount of hours students have classes, and particularly the classes which meet one or two days per week. In order to maintain accreditation, classes must be held a minimum of 37.5 hours per three-credit course.
�Are we making everybody happy on this?� Hinkle said. �Absolutely not.�
Also under fire is the scheduling of classes at certain times of the day.
Night classes. Early morning classes. It seems everyone has a preference for the perfect class on the perfect day. Hinkle said a faculty member’s schedule is considered first among the many factors that decide when a class is scheduled.
But what if that class is closed? And it is for a student’s major?
Students go on a waiting list. Hinkle said there is no �magic number� on the amount of students on a wait list for it to turn into another section, but said she looks at the students individually and their needs.
�No student, to my knowledge has ever not graduated because they�ve been closed out of a class,� Hinkle said. �With our growth, we are able to offer many sections of classes.�
Hinkle added the students had to come first for more faculty members to be hired.
�We can’tafford it without populating the classes first,� she said. �We�ve come a long way to offer more than one section of a course.�
Though it sometimes seems that scheduling madness can ensue at SHU, a method lies underneath it all. That method may be critiqued. It may be explained. It may be just a little bit mad, too.
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