I have been writing for school publications on and off for the entirety of my academic career. I wrote insignificant articles for student-written newsletters in elementary and middle school (though one could argue this column in itself is of no significance), and I served on my high-school newspaper's staff for two and a half years in various capacities before coming to UT.
Nothing has changed since high school. My columns almost always contain rants about social issues, political controversies or — and this is the biggie — how bad the school administration sucks and/or the mistakes it is making. That last one landed me in hot water several times with my former journalism teacher and principal in high school. Of course, it was only natural that I'd continue the potentially self-destructive trend.
Before we adjourned for winter break last semester, I wrote a column that voiced my concerns, which I have learned I share with many other students and faculty members, about the way classes are scheduled and classrooms are selected. At the end of that column, I begged whomever it was that was in charge of these processes to please not let my cries go unanswered. Luckily, they were not.
The day that column was published, I received an email from Dr. Sally McMillan, the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. She assured me that my concerns had been heard and offered to meet with me. Exams, extracurricular activities and other responsibilities kept me from accepting such an invitation last semester, but, luckily, I have a somewhat more forgiving schedule this term and I was able to meet with her last week.
Now, to be perfectly honest, I scheduled this appointment assuming that one of two things would take place. I imagined that I would either get a "stern talkin'-to" like I used to get in high school and be asked to issue a retraction of some of my harsh criticisms (seeing as how I tend to degrade the intellect of whomever it is that I am attacking at that particular time) or have a lot of smoke blown in my general direction. This meeting, however, fulfilled neither of those dreary expectations.
In what was a cordial, yet frank, discussion about the current workings of UT's bureaucracy and the problems students, faculty and administration face, we went over a variety of topics and issues.
One of the biggest complaints that I lodged in the aforementioned column was the way in which classes are placed in rooms that are too small. This was the first issue we discussed and she immediately handed me a copy of a memo that was sent out to the various associate deans for academic affairs on this campus. In the body of the document, potential solutions to this problem are outlined and Dr. McMillan was kind enough to elaborate on these and other potential answers.
Right now, there are many, many classes that are crammed into classrooms that are too small to fit the number of students registered for each section, like an upper-level American History class I have this semester. Though the class is supposed to have somewhere between 40 and 45 students, the classroom was clearly designed to house 30 to 35, which can be a real pain. At the same time, there are classes of similar sizes that are housed in rooms that were designed to facilitate 50, 60 or 70 students. These sections are normally taught by professors who have inhabited those rooms for years and used to fill the class to the gills.
Under new scheduling guidelines, if the class does not fill at least 80 percent of the seats in the room it was assigned, that class will be subject to relocation to a smaller room at a nearby location to make room for other classes that are experiencing overcrowding. This measure has the potential to help alleviate problems like my aforementioned history class, where overcrowding leaves people sitting in chairs with no desk space or, even worse, on garbage cans, tables or even on the floor.
Also outlined in the document was a provision that prohibits department heads from scheduling more than 70 percent of their course offerings in peak hours between 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., which should allow for a wider variety of class choices and a higher number of sections of popular classes. This will hopefully help students get the classes they need instead of being held captive by times that are not conducive to their schedules.
Because of space limitations, I cannot go into everything we discussed, but rest assured the administrators are not as inactive as they sometimes seem. Rest assured they have heard the concerns of the masses and hopefully these measures will help when they're implemented this fall.
— Derek Mullins is a senior in political science and history. He can be reached at email@example.com.