Faculty divided on 10-minute passing time

Michael Tabb | Student Life

Student Life reached out by email to 847 professors and faculty across all four undergraduate divisions; the results represent a cross section of faculty from each division who chose to respond. All divisions are represented.

10 minutes is the amount of time it took one man to attempt 524 free throws, another to eat 47 slices of pizza and yet another to fly 11,856 sky lanterns, according to Guinness World Records. And as of last semester, 10 minutes is how long Washington University students are given to travel between classes.

With one semester of the new passing-time rule completed, students and faculty remain divided about whether the situation has improved.

“We felt it was essential to make this change because the distances between some classes has gotten longer, and some students were having some difficulty and had requested some change,” Provost Ed Macias said. “In some cases, this was already happening de facto. Remember that while it was started this fall, we announced a year before.”

Macias pointed out that there are new buildings that have further spread out the campus, such as Seigle Hall, which was not constructed until 2008. According to Google Maps, it would take about 15 minutes to walk from Green Hall to Seigle, a distance of about 0.7 miles.

The majority of students are pleased with the additional three minutes in passing time.

Junior Audrey Buatois had to walk from Eads Hall to the third floor of Seigle Hall last year and was routinely late. Google Maps estimates her walking time at about seven minutes, not taking into account the time required to pack up belongings and climb the two stories to get to the classroom.

“It got to the point where our professor just ended up waiting until 10 after the hour to start anyway, since so many of us were walking so far to get to class,” Buatois said.

Senior Matt Halpern remarked that the additional three minutes make reaching class on time more realistic, especially when commuting to and from the engineering buildings near the corner of Forest Park Parkway and Skinker Boulevard. Sophomore Divya Rayapati uses the extended passing time to get a bite to eat between classes.

“I think it doesn’t make much of a difference personally in getting from one class to another,” junior Katie Jacobs said. “It does allow time to stop for coffee though, which is nice.”

Faculty members, on the other hand, are decidedly split.

On one side are those like Hindi professor Mohammad Warsi, who think the three minutes sacrificed at the beginning of each class is worth the increased attendance.

“Whenever I [went] to my classes [last year], I had to wait an extra four or five minutes for my students to come. Some of my students come from the Business School, from the Music Building, from the South 40,” Warsi said. “It makes sense to me to start class 10 minutes after the hour, so I think it is a good move.”

Others, such as physics professor Martin Israel, think that the rule itself makes sense, but that it has not actually resulted in more students coming to class on time.

“I’ve been here over 40 years, and it has always been seven minutes. The campus has spread and grown over that time,” Israel said. “But it seems to me that I’ve got as many students coming into my class two or three minutes late now as I did when the time was seven minutes. I’m disappointed that students don’t seem to have used the extra time efficiently.”

Still more faculty members dislike the rule because of the time lost over the course of the semester, totaling about 84 minutes for a class meeting twice-weekly and 123 minutes for a class meeting three times a week.

“It boils down to basically cutting out an entire lecture from my curriculum to fit into the constraint of the new rule,” said a professor in the Olin Business School who preferred to remain anonymous. “It would be one thing if I had all of my students arriving on time, but it seems like many choose to cut it as close as possible.”

Some faculty feel that the rule extends too far beyond the classroom, delaying meetings and other department events as well to 10 minutes after the scheduled start time.

Student Life surveyed 847 faculty members about the rule change and received 171 responses. Only 43.9 percent thought that students were more on time with the extra three minutes.

While 59.1 percent of faculty members indicated that they were able to cover the same amount of material as in previous semesters, 28.1 percent said that they presented slightly or substantially less material.

Only 12.3 percent thought that the change to 10 minutes between classes was detrimental to students. About 26 percent thought that the change was detrimental to faculty.

A number of professors used the survey to voice their frustration with the changes, but many would not comment for fear of backlash from administrators.

One faculty member in the College of Arts & Sciences called the new policy “laughable.” Another in the School of Engineering remarked that there was an “awkward silence” that usually hit at about seven minutes after the start time. A faculty member in the Business School noted that the policy was “causing more harm than good.” Others suggested adding an extra class at the end of the semester to make up for lost time, while some wrote that it makes more sense to start class on time and end 10 minutes earlier.

Macias said that he personally had received very little negative feedback about the rule change.

“People have said it seems to be working,” Macias said. “I don’t like losing [the time], but this was a compromise between changing the schedule entirely or losing a couple minutes.”

At least for the foreseeable future, Macias said the 10-minute rule is here to stay.

This is what we are going to do for a while. It is as much as we can take out of a class,” Macias said. “It does give people a reasonable shot if they move rapidly to get to the next class on time. It is the kind of compromise I think we are going to stick with.”