Rush Hour

A freshman not quite sure of his field of concentration might do well to schedule Economics 1, Nat. Sci. 5, English 123 (Harry Levin on Shakespeare), and History 61a (Frank Freidel's basic American history course) as his classes this year. If these didn't appeal to him, he might try Nat. Sci. 9, Fine Arts 13, Philosophy 1, and Social Sciences 136 (David Riesman). Or Hum. 3, English 115 (Chaucer), Government 124 (Constitutional law), and Slavic 150 (Russian-lit-in-English).

These programs are all reasonable. Yet no one could turn in such a schedule or even take more than one of these twelve courses in one year--they are all offered on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays at noon.

There are, in fact, more than 40 other lower and middle group courses offered at that time, and quite a few 200-level classes as well. But not only the number of courses offered at noon makes students wish they could take more than one at a time: nearly all the major noon-time offerings are survey courses that appeal to concentrators in all fields. Ec. 1, for example, had the largest enrollment in the College last year despite the competition offered by other twelve o'clock classes. Yet nine other courses given at the same time enrolled 100 or more students--Nat. Sci. 5 had 360 and Fine Arts 13, 284. Instead of cutting down on the number of courses offered then, the departments added more. Phil. 1, English 123, History 61, as well as Stanley Hoffman's course on modern France, Erik Erickson's on the life cycle, and Donald Fleming's on American intellectual history, were added.

It is easy to see why the noon hour is popular; department heads know that students dislike Saturday classes and courses that meet early in the morning. So each department offers its top courses during one of the most popular hours for classes, just as television networks plan their most interesting shows so that they conflict with interesting shows on other networks.

But the departments, unlike the networks, are not in competition, and something might be done to ease the traffic jam at noon.


A few of the large courses might be offered at 1 p.m., a time now reserved for a few sections and labs. Or, to relieve the bottle-neck slightly, Economics 1 might be shifted to another time; since 85 percent of the course is given in sections which meet at various times, the hour of the few lectures could easily be changed. It is a shame to have so many of the best courses in the college compete with each other.