Scheduling errors lead to problems for students

Ulises Koyoc, Reporter

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A scheduling error involving shorter-than-intended class lengths affected at least two courses at California Lutheran University this fall semester. This resulted in multiple students having to work out ways to resolve scheduling conflicts, including at least one student who had to drop a course due to the error. 

POLS-320-01 Scopes and Methods of Political Science and POLS-200-06 Global Studies (cross-listed as GLST-101-05) are the two classes known to be affected by errors. Both classes were listed on WebAdvisor during registration—and until recently—as taking place from 2:15-3:20 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It wasn’t until fall that professors realized the classes were supposed to go until 3:55 p.m. 

“It is a regrettable incident, maybe it’s a glitch,” said Francois Zdanowicz, who teaches POLS-200-06. “It’s a pain in the neck.”

Zdanowicz said throughout his five years of working at Cal Lutheran, his class times have always been the same duration. Noticing at the beginning of the semester that one of his classes had a 35 minute shorter duration than usual, Zdanowicz said he asked his superiors if the time was correct. 

Zdanowicz said his concerns were not immediately heard and took longer to be fixed than expected. 

Hailey Schaffner was a student in Zdanowicz’s class who was forced to drop the class because of a conflict with her personal schedule. Schaffner said in an email interview that it was not until her first day in class that she found out the correct times. Schaffner said she was not the only student who dropped the class due to timing issues. When asked if any faculty tried to assist her, Schaffner said no one helped.

“I, along with the whole class, was confused and upset… I was forced to drop the class because I needed to work,” Schaffner said. “This did stress me out, but now I don’t even think about it because it frustrated me so much at the time.”

For POLS-320-01, taught by political science professor Sara Sadhwani, the error was not recognized until the end of September. On Sept. 26, Sadhwani, who is in her first year of teaching at Cal Lutheran, sent an email to her class informing them of the error. In the email, Sadhwani said the extra time would help to get through course material, and asked students to speak with her if the change presented a problem given other class or work schedules. 

Associate Provost of Academic Services and Registrar Maria Kohnke said fixing a mistake in the school schedule can take a while due to the number of steps it has to go through to get approved. 

“There are multiple levels of people it needs to go through,” Kohnke said. “It takes a little bit of time for that [change] to happen.”

Kohnke said creating schedules is a collaborative and complicated process. Kohnke said Academic Services does not decide what classes are offered or when class times are. Individual department chairs are the ones who make those decisions. However, Kohnke said the political science department was transitioning to a new department chair, making it more likely for there to be a mistake. 

“The new department chair caught and fixed it,” Kohnke said. “And then we tried to work with the students who were affected to give them extra time to help them make adjustments.” 

Political Science Department Chair Haco Hoang said in an email statement that she believes she was made aware of the error within the first 3-4 weeks of class and immediately asked the Registrar’s Office to correct the class times, which it did within approximately 24 hours. 

Hoang said she is unaware of any impact on Carnegie Hours “because it was caught early in the semester, and both instructors informed me that they have or will be able to make up the content.” According to Cal Lutheran’s website, Carnegie Hours are “a time-based way to measure the education provided to students,” required for accreditation purposes. 

Zdanowicz said when he worked at larger educational institutions like University of California, Santa Barbara, scheduling issues occurred more often. Zdanowicz said although it was one of his classes that was affected, it had minimal impact on him. Rather, students had more of the burden. 

“I feel for the students, but it did not [academically] penalize students,” Zdanowicz said. 

The production of the semester schedule starts with discussing the personal schedules of faculty. The next step is analyzing data on past enrollment numbers to see if there is a need for a specific class. After these steps are complete, department chairs decide what classes will be offered and at what times. The final step before schedules reach Academic Services is review by the dean’s office, Kohnke said. 

Kohnke said the political science department was the only department affected by scheduling issues this fall. However, it is uncertain how many students were affected. 

“We have a lot of checks and balances in the process to try and catch that [issues],” Kohnke said. “[If] we make a set of changes to make corrections it goes back to the whole process again… unfortunately everyone is human… there is always a chance something will slip through.”