Lang Classes to Shorten
In line with the university’s push toward divisional integration and in an attempt to stand its ground in the college marketplace, Lang will soon alter its class schedule policy so students will be able to go back and forth between Lang and Parsons with greater ease — and have a greater variety of time slots from which to choose.
The decision comes after seven years of student and administrator frustration regarding the difficulty of Lang students to take classes at Parsons and vice-versa. Administrators at Parsons and Lang are currently taking steps so that by Fall 2011 the two colleges will have more synchronized schedules, making cross-divisional registration easier.
“What’s most exciting about the way this is turning out is that it means the whole curriculum will open up,” said Kathleen Breidenbach, associate dean at Lang and the driving force behind the proposed schedule. “It just means there will be a lot more flexibility.”
Lang students currently spend 200 in class per class, equivalent to four Carnegie hours (50 minutes equals one Carnegie hour in collegiate jargon). For each Carnegie hour, students earn one credit. Lang’s current schedule directly equates time spent in class with the amount of credits earned. Under the new system Lang will give students the same amount of credits — four — for less time spent in class (much like competitors NYU and Bard).
To ensure students are still doing four credits worth of work, professors will have to expand their curriculum beyond the classroom. Breidenbach suggests mandatory field trips, extra readings and Blackboard discussions as alternatives to time spent in class. Otherwise shorter classes would be worth less credits.
“If we were going to three credits, it would mean students would have to take more classes,” Briedenbach said. “It would mean we’d have to offer more classes, and all of a sudden things would start to get really expensive.”
Debate about whether to change the bell schedule led to student concern about maintaining the integrity of the seminar style — a definitive factor of Lang’s academic structure. Mark Larrimore, chair of the religious studies department, thinks “[It’s a question of ] what will make a Lang class a Lang class?”
Larrimore is concerned that with less time, pivotal discussion points could go unrecognized. Breidenbach, however, feels the shorter class periods would force instructors and students to get to the meat of the discussion faster. “It’s going to mean that if you have something to say you should really have something to say, not just talk so that you can get your presentation points”, she said.
And there’s the ever-present pressing issue of Lang’s desire to stand its ground against comparable schools like Bard and NYU.
“We did all kinds of research,” Breidenbach said. “We found that some of our competitors like Bard and NYU offer four-credit classes that only meet for three hours [a week].”
The proposed schedule has classes running on the following schedule: twice a week, for either an hour and 15 minutes or an hour and 40 minutes; and once a week, for two hours and 40 minutes.
The new schedule would also add a fifth period to the school day, in part to assist students who have scheduling conflicts, such as jobs.
Breaks between classes will now also be shortened from 20 down to 10 minutes. This could challenge students who must commute between The New School’s scattered buildings, navigate city streets, and then wait for the university’s often tedious elevators.
Larrimore characterized the change as a conflict between logistics and creative theory saying that what sounds good in theory may not work in practice. “I don’t see how we can fit into a three hour [a week] schedule given our campus,” he said.