Friday Classes Set to Increase

For many students at Claremont McKenna College, the weekend will soon be shortened from three days to two. The administration is planning to add additional courses on Friday next semester, postponing the start of many students’ weekend from Thursday night to Friday night.

“This semester there will be nothing overly dramatic,” said Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Gregory Hess. “The long run plan is to spread out the academic calendar more and to optimize more classroom space.”

Currently only about 4% of all academic classes meet on Fridays. That number rises to 17% if Joint Science classes are included. Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics classes make up the majority of classes that meet on Friday. 535 CMC students, 43% of full time bachelor students, are involved in some sort of academic activity on Friday, according to the Dean of Faculty.

Next semester, more Friday sections will be created by offering more Monday-Wednesday-Friday class options rather than only Monday-Wednesday. Many sections of lower level language classes, which currently meet Monday through Thursday, will instead meet Tuesday through Friday in the coming semester.

One reason given for offering more classes on Friday is the current shortage of classroom space while CMC awaits the completion of the Kravis Center.

“We have very limited flexibility within the week to schedule classes,” said Hess. “We run our capacity at about 80% of classroom space. I think Pomona runs theirs at 40%.”

Another reason for the increase of Friday classes came from the Alcohol Task Force Report published last spring.  In the report, the ATF recommended that the Dean of Faculty consider scheduling more classes on Friday if he found “pedagogically sound reasons for attempting this re-engineering of Friday classes.”

“The Alcohol Task Force has not been prescriptive to Dean Hess,” explains Vice President of Student Affairs Jeff Huang. “If you look at the report word for word, it more encompasses the thought of the whole committee which was, there needs to be good educational reasons for this. If not then we would walk away from it.”

It is hard to deny, however, the effect that few Friday classes has on the Thursday night party culture at CMC.

“The perception that the Alcohol Task Force came away with was that in a typical weekend Thursday was a party night, Friday was a mellow night and Saturday was another party night,” said Huang. “If it were the case that there are a lot of Friday classes, then that would probably have some dampening effect on the Thursday night culture, but it would probably ramp up the Friday night culture.”

Including more Friday classes would pose a serious dilemma for the many groups and activities that utilize Friday free time.  Senior thesis writing, faculty research, and work-study jobs are all examples of potentially affected Friday activities.

The ROTC program at CMC schedules the majority of its activities on Friday afternoons. All cadets have two hours’ worth of military science class every Friday. In addition, all of the cadres of ROTC programs in the Inland Empire meet at CMC every other Friday for four hours’ worth of class.

“We start our Physical Training at 6:30 am in the morning (on Fridays) and for most of the cadets they are in uniform running solid until 5:00 pm that night,” explained Executive Officer Captain Mike Perry, a professor of Military Science at CMC’s ROTC program.

Athletics also utilizes Fridays differently than other days of the week  scheduling practices and other events earlier in the afternoon. CMS Athletic Director Mike Sutton pointed out that science labs and other classes that take place Friday afternoons at Harvey Mudd are already a source of scheduling conflicts.

“Inevitably all students at HMC will have Friday afternoon lab or class conflict at some point in their academic career," he said. "This has a major impact on HMC students.  It’s one of the reasons they have a harder time continuing to participate in athletics, particularly in the team sports where we need everyone to conduct practice.”

Director Sutton also indicated that scheduling more classes before lunch would have a nominal effect on the athletic program.

While relatively few changes are planned for next semester, fulfilling the college’s mission of providing a first rate education to its students and optimizing class space are at the forefront of the administration’s ambitions for the long run. Discouraging Thursday night party culture, albeit secondary, also seems to have played a part in the administration’s decision.

“If it is perceived as being taken away, there is always going to be a big push back,” said Sutton. “If you are able to step back and look at the issue more broadly… the cumulative effect will be a big positive.”