Schedule Change Amplifies Stress Among Students

Before she knew it, the fall semester was over, and Jane W. Baldwin ’11, an earth and planetary sciences concentrator, found herself struggling to finish over reading period a final project worth 50 percent of her Applied Math 115 grade.

In past years, students spent roughly 40 hours on the mathematical modeling assignment over winter break, but this year’s calendar change meant that they faced a bigger time crunch before the end of the semester.

“I spent a lot of time thinking, ‘Was this something I screwed up? Could I have scheduled this better?’” Baldwin says about the project, which was assigned two weeks before Thanksgiving break. “Realistically, there was not enough time to allocate to something like that before reading period.”

Despite memories of a stressful reading period—not unfamiliar to many students this past semester—Baldwin says she ultimately prefers the new schedule. She got her finals out of the way and even got to spend more time with her boyfriend at Carnegie Mellon over January term.

“It was definitely worth the small increment of more stress,” Baldwin says.

Thanks to this year’s long-awaited calendar change, three days were shaved off of reading period, fall exams were moved before the winter break, and the College’s first ever J-Term was created.

But the changes caught many faculty and students by surprise, as they failed to adjust their class schedules and duly spread out their work to alleviate a build-up of stress toward the end of the semester.

College administrators attribute the unanticipated stress of the compressed semester to a lack of planning by both students and faculty, though proposals for rearranging vacation days in the fall semester are still up for discussion.

“We’ve heard there’d been some glitches,” said Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds. “People didn’t quite take in what the change was and what they needed to do to adjust.”

IN A FRENZY

Dunster House tutor and English teaching fellow Sabrina Sadique recalls an overwhelming demand for office hours toward the end of last semester as students scrambled to finish final papers.

“[Professors] were trying to cram everything in the last minute,” Sadique says. “The [syllabi for many courses] just seemed to be the same syllabi they would teach anyway.”

Unable to help all the students “from all kinds of fields” who approached her, Sadique says she regularly extended her office hours until 2 a.m.

Echoing Sadique’s observations, Adams House Master John G. “Sean” Palfrey ’67 characterized the end of the semester as ”very badly managed” by faculty in general.

“I think that many of the faculty have to take this somewhat shortened term and take it somewhat more seriously and readjust their curriculum,” Palfrey says.

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