An Impossible Puzzle: The Perfect Schedule
story Yonatan Gazit, May Tay
Drafting the schedule for the 2015 Spring Semester, “was an impossible problem on some level,” Dean of Faculty Charles Bailyn said. Monday, Nov. 24th marked the start of the three-round Registration Process for both the Yale-NUS Classes of 2017 and 2018, and leading up to that date the Registry department was tasked with creating and revising the 2015 Spring Semester’s module schedule. Due to inexperience and space constraints without the new campus, students, staff, and faculty said they experienced varying degrees of anxiety throughout the process.
According to Bailyn, next semester’s calendar would naturally be the most complex one Yale-NUS has produced so far. “Last year the class of 2017 had 12 electives, every student was picking one if you leave off the overloads, so … 150 students had to be put into an elective somewhere. This time the students of class of 2017 have three or four electives, so that’s something like 550 elective [slots], plus another 170 from the first years, so that’s over 700 elective slots that have to be placed,” he said. Additionally, students from the Class of 2017 are choosing courses for their majors, and students from the class of 2018 have to build their schedule around their common curriculum classes.
The Yale-NUS Registry department faced several constraints in creating the schedule. A major problem arose due to the delayed move- in to the new campus. Bailyn said that given that the switch was expected to happen next semester, the current number of classroom spaces available to Yale-NUS at Residential College Four is not enough for the variety of courses the college is offering. It has borrowed just enough spaces from NUS, causing the schedule to be quite strained. “I think every classroom that’s available to us in RC4 or in University town is in use from 8.30 a.m. -6 p.m. all five days of the week,” Bailyn said.
This was the first time such a complicated scheduling process had happened at Yale-NUS. Last year, parts of the scheduling could be done by hand, but this year Yale-NUS had to create an electronic platform on which to do the scheduling. This ended up further delaying the process, according to Bailyn. In addition, most of the electives have never been offered before, so the frequency of seminar sessions had to be determined for the first time.
Registry eventually released the upcoming semester’s courses schedule first to the heads of studies to identify potential clashes that should be changed, according to Professor Martin Weissman. Following which, on Nov 8, the schedule was released to students and faculty. Students found more clashes and brought them to the Registry’s attention, with varying degrees of success in having them fixed.
Li Ting Chan ’17 managed to resolve a clash between three electives she hoped to take: Proof, Mathematical Methods, and Classical Mechanics. “I spoke to a few of my friends who were also interested in taking the same electives, and then emailed my academic advisor Professor Weissman. He then discussed this with the rest of the faculty who told the administration. They now don’t clash,” she said. Weissman said that all it took to change the class was to notify the Registry department, and the matter was resolved rather quickly.
Tamara Burgos ’18 had to choose between Chinese I and International Relations, since she could not fit them both into her schedule along with her common curriculum classes. “Because of my major I chose to sacrifice Chinese … I need IR more because I want to major in global affairs,” she said. Burgos went on to acknowledge that no system would satisfy every desire of every student, and that given this is only the second semester of the first year for the Class of 2018, the inability to take certain courses due to timetable clashes is not likely to cause major problems. The Class of 2018 was also given the option to swap time slots for Common Curriculum classes with fellow classmates in other time slots to accommodate electives they wanted to take. At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov 18, Registry sent out a list of every freshman’s common curriculum time slot assignments. They had 24 hours, until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, to fill out a swapping form. “It created a lot of stress and panic (among) people, and a lot of people made wrong decisions and wrong choices, because they were so stressed and it was so hectic, that they felt like they needed to do it right away,” Burgos said. Submissions after 5 p.m. will not be reflected in the first round of registration, meaning that in that round students will not be able to register for electives that clash with their common curriculum classes if the appropriate switches were not made before 5 p.m. on Nov 19.
In the coming semesters, it is hoped that the scheduling process will proceed more smoothly. “I think that two things will happen,” Bailyn said. “One, the problem will become yet that much more complex, but also we’ve had a round of doing it once, we have the online tools, we have the understanding of how the process needs to work, and we have flexibility of having our own space, so I think it will be more complex in some senses and more straightforward in others.”
More information on the course selection process can be found at the Yale-NUS Student Academic Advising website.