Administrators seek to remedy classroom crunch

By Rachel Levine

With the bids of 4,000 undergraduate and 8,000 graduate students pending, the Registrar’s office will make preliminary room assignments for next quarter later this week, following a quarter during which many courses, language classes in particular, went without adequate classroom space.

According to Thomas Black, the University registrar, room assignments will be updated based on actual enrollment numbers.

Jerald Keys, a Ph.D. student in East Asian Languages and Civilizations, is particularly displeased with the space difficulties that his intermediate Japanese class encountered this quarter. The class was moved three times, and is currently being held in Wieboldt 301.

“It is now almost the end of the quarter and this class of over 20 students meets in a small room with almost no ventilation, and half the students have no desk,” he said. “Most recently we were ousted in favor of an eighth grade party in the classroom we were surreptitiously using in Judd Hall.”

Keys said he does not understand why a university with the resources like those of Chicago cannot provide his class with adequate space. “It has given me a bad impression of the U of C that I will continue to hold and express,” he said.

Although not aware of intermediate Japanese’s difficulties, Black said that he is acutely aware of the difficulties that the University faces. “Many universities are suffering the same phenomenon,” he said.

The main factor contributing to space crunches involves the fact that departments schedule heavily between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Black said that on average, the University holds approximately 2000 sections of class among all of its divisions in any given quarter. His office controls approximately 60 rooms, while individual departments control over 200 rooms collectively.

The different University divisions may schedule their own classes in their own spaces, but they also make rooms available in their spaces for the registrar to schedule classes in specific hours. “We do make a call for space, but if [departments] don’t give us enough, we’re spent,” Black said.

“We are actually doing the scheduling for 60 percent of the sections,” Black said. “We don’t place all 2,000 sections in a room—the BSD [Biological Sciences Division] will schedule their courses in the spaces in their building.”

He added that at both Duke and Stanford, the registrar controls all of the classroom space on campus. Another significant problem the College faces is that faculty prefer to teach more classes that meet two days per week than the University’s schedule offers.

Black emphasized that in the future “the departments would do a better job of distributing courses throughout the day,” instead of clustering them between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. He added that this clustering not only makes space scarce but also hurts students who face the prospect of so many courses meeting at the same times.

A growing problem the registrar’s office faces in scheduling language classes is the lack of classrooms with multimedia capabilities. Black said that more language courses are looking for multimedia equipment, but there are only 12 classrooms in the “central pool” with the requisite equipment. The University is looking to double the number of multimedia-capable classrooms over the summer, he said.

“Language classes have low enrollment because that’s what they need to be successful,” Black said, adding that they typically lose the “race for space” between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

While Black said that departments play a role in scheduling, students do not know which administrators in their departments to approach.

“I do not play a role in the scheduling of classroom space,” said Henry Way, associate dean of the Humanities Division. “I was not made aware of the situation. I cannot speak of the normalcy of the situation, [but] now that I am aware of the situation I will see if there is anything that can be done by the Division to help remedy it.”

Thomas Thuerer, dean of students in the Humanities Division, said that when Keys approached him about the inadequacy of the classroom space for his Japanese section, Thuerer explained that his office was not responsible. He suggested to Keyes that the University registrar or the dean of students might be able to help him.

Black said that once the GSB moves to its new building, there will be many more classrooms available in the Rosenwald, Walker, and Stuart buildings.