Mandatory Syllabi Fail to ?Resolve Course Conflicts

Students feel stressed over multiple major assignments occurring on the same day, despite efforts by the Grade Task Force to reduce assignment overlaps. The Grade Task Force consists of a group of teachers who discuss the Lower, Upper and Senior educational programs and make recommendations. According to John Rogers, Dean of Studies, the Grade Task Force recommended all faculty members to provide a syllabus with the due dates of major assignments after a meeting in 1997. “Part of the recommendation [that the Grade Task Force made] was that these syllabi should be handed out to students and collected by department chairs, and that a copy be kept in the Dean of Studies Office for easy reference when needed,” wrote Rogers in an email to The Phillipian. “One important idea behind [handing out the] syllabi was that students could coordinate their workload by looking ahead on their syllabi and noting major assignment due dates,” Rogers wrote. “This would allow them to notify teachers of conflicts, for example, if they had three tests in one day.” Rogers continued, “If there were patterns that emerged, for example, conflicts that always seemed to appear at the same time of year for most Uppers, then department chairs could work together to try to adjust syllabi.” “However, because students take so many different [classes], only they can identify the really busy times of the term and anticipate conflicts using their syllabi,” wrote Rogers. “It is mainly the student’s responsibility to look at their syllabi ahead of time to avoid conflicts,” said Elizabeth Korn, Assistant Dean of Studies. “The [Dean of Studies] office collected the syllabi mainly to ensure that syllabi had sufficient information, such as due dates of major assignments,” said Korn. Students who have difficulty identifying possible major assignment conflicts have a number of resources they can use for assistance, including the Academic Support Center or academic advisors. Rekha Auguste-Nelson ’09 said that she thought more meetings between department chairs should be held to discuss syllabi coordination, perhaps at he beginning of the term and at midterm. Patrick McGrath ’11 also thought that there should be more discussion. “Kids in my classes are always asking for extensions. I don’t think it should be [only] the students’ responsibility. Teachers should talk to each other [more often] in order to avoid overlap.” Peter Drench, Department Chair of History and Social Science, said that in his four years as chair, he has not had a meeting with other department chairs regarding assignment due dates. Ijeoma Ejiogu ’11 said that she thought it was understandable for several major assignments to fall on the same day. “Teachers need to compress the [material in their] syllabi, because winter term is so short,” she said. “There’s a certain rhythm to the learning process when it’s logical to assign tests, quizzes, and papers, and there’s little variation to this rhythm [from class to class],” Drench said. “However, we try to be as reasonable and flexible as we can be [with due dates].”