Date:    December 16, 1999


To:       Gary Gabriele, Vice Provost for Administration and Dean of Undergraduate Education

            Faculty Senate, Michael Hanna, Chair


From:   Prof. Linnda Caporael, x6413 / caporl@rpie.du

            Acting Chair, FSCC and H&SS Representative


Re:       Scheduling Policies for Undergraduate Courses


The Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee (FSCC) concurs that there is a problem with the current scheduling for undergraduate courses and support a scheduling initiative to be led by a Scheduling Committee organized by the Registrar and Dean of Undergraduate Education.  However, the FSCC does not endorse the specifics in the memo dated 19 November 1999, “Scheduling Policies for Undergraduate Courses.”  In the absence of alternative scenarios for exploring options and adequate time for faculty feedback and discussion, the effects of the scheduling policies on the curriculum and its delivery cannot even be guessed.


The committee recognizes the complexity of the scheduling problem: the importance of a well-rounded college experience for student, the need to optimize classroom utilization and facilities, the needs of diverse faculty whose research and artistic activities require access to facilities off-campus, and the difficulties faced by working professionals who are continuing their education.  The FSCC also recognizes that scheduling must be an iterative process, characterized by trial-and-error and “evolutionary” change.


However, the policies going into effect in Fall 2000 constitute a major change in a complex system, and such alterations are prone to unintended consequences, particularly when the rationale for the new schedule is that it is the “easiest fix.”  The current problem itself is an unintended consequence of other major policy changes.  While such consequences cannot be completely avoided, the FSCC urges the Faculty Senate to take steps to reduce surprises.


Use the scheduling expertise on campus to develop scenarios for exploring alternatives.  While ideal solutions are not to be expected, it is better to eliminate alternatives that can be shown to be gravely suboptimal given the complex constraints.  According to Prof. Raghavachari, who attended our meeting, rough models that could nevertheless provide useful information could be developed in three months with support for a research assistant to be supervised by a faculty member.  As Prof. Raghavachari points out, however, models are no substitute for policy. 


The current scheduling policy conceives of the Scheduling Committee solely as an implementation committee, and the responsibility for policies that guide implementation is unclear.  There must be interaction between the development of policy and implementation.  The Faculty Senate should explore options to ensure coordination, particularly in the development of scheduling schemes over the next few years.  Given that implementation is supposed to be “faculty driven and faculty supervised,” it may be appropriate to view the Scheduling Committee as both policy and implementation.  If so, the charge to the committee should be further developed.  The Planning and Resources Committee and the FSCC should endorse the charge to the Scheduling Committee and future proposed policies.  Appropriate information and sufficient time should be a priority for responsible decision making.