Controlling Scheduled Chaos

A new term brings new weather, new sports and, most importantly, new schedules. Every term, students crowd into the Dean of Studies’ office waving add-drop slips, run between departments and advisors, and try to sort out their classes for the coming term. Yet, for all the time and effort put into scheduling, many students know little about the inner workings of the system behind it. At its core, scheduling is a balance between the needs and wants of students and the limitations of departments. Departments are responsible for setting class sizes, determining the number of sections and making teachers’ schedules. These constraints impose limits on how many students can take each course. So how do the limited places in each course get filled? Beginning with the Seniors, each set of course requests is entered into a computer system that determines each schedule automatically. The system does not give special preference to any specific Seniors. The successive classes’ course requests are subsequently entered and completed in the same way. Even after the computer works its scheduling magic, some broken schedules remain. Some schedules lack a full course load, due to conflicting course requests. These not full schedules are the first to be addressed. After broken schedules are fixed, the add-drop process begins. Add-dropping is designed for changing courses, not for choosing free periods or changing teachers. Although teacher continuity and comfortable scheduling are priorities for the scheduling office, department staffing requirements always take precedence over student desires. But this does not stop many students from working the scheduling system to tailor their schedules. Although working the system can succeed, it often results in an unwanted, total reorganization of a schedule. It is not wrong to try and design a desirable schedule, but using the system to try to switch to an easier teacher, for example, is frowned upon. There are ways students can improve their schedule without relentlessly abusing the add-drop system. The master schedule for each term is available to the entire school on PAnet. The master schedule has information explaining when each course is available, which students can use to increase their chances of getting a desired course by making sure they do not pick conflicting courses. Picking strong second and third choices, which the scheduling officers can then use to make your schedule, eliminates the need for numerous add-drop requests. In order for any class to be a good learning-environment, it needs to be the right size, have interested students, and have a strong teacher. Creating this environment in every class is a difficult, but achievable, task that the departments and scheduling office continuously work to create for the students. This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian board CXXXIII