By Ayden Bolin
New this year to the University of Puget Sound is the common hour, a time scheduled every Wednesday between 12:00 and 1:30 PM where there are no classes. Initially, this was established as a time for both faculty and students to meet, so as to accommodate a wider range of schedules.
“Faculty members have suggested for a number of years that, because Faculty Meetings (traditionally 4:00-5:30 p.m.) have conflicted with some teaching schedules, they are unable to attend. For some, late afternoon childcare responsibilities have also constrained attendance. The Common Period allows all to attend,” said the Academic Vice President, Kristine Bartanen.
The common hour does seem to have helped the matter of attendance among faculty so far. According to Bartanen, the first faculty meeting of the semester (held during the new common hour) was attended by 129 faculty members, in contrast to 45 attending the final meeting of the 2017 spring semester.
In addition to accommodating more varied schedules, there is hope that student leaders will find flexibility in the new schedule as well.
“The Common Period offers many opportunities beyond well-attended Faculty Meetings, so the campus community needs an opportunity to develop and try out some of those opportunities in order to fully assess the effects of change,” said Bartanen.
Members of the student body have also spoken to some of these hopes, which range from expanded meeting times to just having more time for self-care and productivity.
“Just an hour can make a huge difference,” said sophomore Bennett Johnson. “It gives people some time to take a break.”
Still, other community members feel as though the change has pushed around schedules elsewhere, as it has affected the rescheduling of some classes and activities.
“I think it is an interesting concept, but I think maybe having a common hour at a different time might be better. Although I can definitely see that the possibility to come up with a common hour at a different time might be difficult, due to the schedule of faculty,” said sophomore Alonso Tirado when asked about the Common Hour’s impact.
Still, because this is a trial run of the concept, small tweaks are being discussed.
“While there were a couple of wrinkles voiced about conflicts in the 4:00-6:00 segment of the course schedule, those wrinkles turned out to be caused by factors other than the Common Period. Conflicts with rehearsals or practices can be remedied through attentive course scheduling, independent of the Common Period. I am confident colleagues are working to address any questions,” said Bartanen.
There were also concerns raised about the new Common Hour impacting the lunch rush on Wednesdays as well. However, Chelsea Bairey, Senior Dining Services Manager, says that not much has changed.
“We are always busy at noon on Wednesdays and the common period did not change this. We thought that maybe it would spread out the rush a little but it hasn’t. For us it’s business as usual,” said Bairey. “To avoid the rush we recommend people come in later, even arriving at 12:08 makes a huge difference.”
This year will be a trial run for the new Common Hour. Talks of its removal or even changes are subject to change under Faculty Bylaws.
“The Faculty Bylaws provide for a 90 minute meeting. If the faculty wishes to change the bylaws, then that will require an amendment process and will take some time. I anticipate that colleagues will want to see how the Common Period works this year; it is too soon – with only one meeting so far – for evidence of effectiveness to be complete,” said Bartanen.