Expect Friday classes starting Fall 2008 at USF

The three-day weekends many USF students relish may be a thing of the past by next fall if a planned revamp of the class scheduling structure stays on course.

If administrators adopt the schedule, Fridays typically reserved for undergraduate rest and recuperation or gainful employment would be reincorporated into class schedules; classes now offered for 75 minutes Mondays and Wednesdays would be changed to 50-minute classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

“Having to go to class on Friday would conflict with my work schedule,” said engineering sophomore Michael Inzirillo. ” I am only working a few days a week and that money helps me pay for school; I can’t afford to give up one of those days.”

Though some students may balk at the proposed change, administrators maintain it is necessary, not only to make class scheduling easier, but also to boost efficiency and graduation rates.

The University currently uses 18.1 percent of its instructional space on Fridays and 49 percent overall. This places USF lower than the universities of Florida, Florida State and Central Florida in terms of efficiency, said Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies Glen Besterfield.

The low utilization rate makes it hard to justify asking the state to fund new buildings for more institutional space, administrators said.

Overlapping classes in the current schedule limit the ability of students to graduate in four years, which could offer a major financial hit to the University, Besterfield said.

Last week the Florida Legislature passed a bill that would change the way universities receive funds. Universities in the state system would be graded on a number of criteria, including undergraduate graduation rates. Multi-million dollar allotments would be dispensed based on these grades, and a low grade could further strap the University, which has already seen a 4 percent decrease in its base budget.

For Vice Provost Ralph Wilcox, these changes come as part of a four-pronged approach to improving the chances USF grads have to compete with people with similar degrees from UF, FSU and UCF.

The University has begun to be more selective when admitting students, invested heavily in tracking and committed to increasing need-based scholarships, he said. A standardized course schedule would be the fourth step in this approach.

“Hearing from students and parents, students are not able to get the 12 to 15 hours they need to graduate on time,” Wilcox said.

The new schedule not only expands class schedules but offers students 15 minutes between classes scheduled back-to-back, Besterfield said.

This means students who have to cross the campus between consecutive classes would be afforded an extra five minutes to do so, a perk Besterfield feels will help eliminate reluctance to schedule such classes and free up more time for students.

The plan also calls for 7:30 a.m. classes for resident freshman students who are used to waking up for the start of high school at 7 a.m., Besterfield said.

Anthony Polichemi agreed that freshman should be held to different rules, but are still reluctant to give up their free Fridays.

“As a freshman last year, I had to take Friday classes,” said the mass communications sophomore. “I think it’s sort of like a rite of passage for students. I’m a commuter student; I shouldn’t have to drive to campus five days a week.”

Besterfield points to his own experience as an example of how students can make a regulated course schedule work for them. When he was an undergrad he was able to schedule Monday-Wednesday-Friday school weeks, freeing up four days to relax or catch up on work.

“Some might find that they’re three-day students,” he said.

Joshua Neiderer can be reached at (813) 974-5190 or oracleeditor@gmail.com.