Class schedule exemptions in trouble, union raises concerns

Jeff Burnett, Staff Writer

UIS will no longer allow faculty to have “schedule exemptions” and will only allow class times within the scheduling grid designated by the university. The Journal obtained an internal email sent to the deans of each school by James Ermatinger, informing them that faculty needs to schedule their classes according to the provided grid.

“Since schedules are currently under discussion we should not deviate from the approved schedule grid,” Ermatinger, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost of UIS, wrote in the email. “Class schedules submitted outside of the approved times should not be agreed to.”

Science Labs, Studio Arts, and Educational Leadership will not be impacted by the enforced scheduling since these departments received permission from their deans and the university when the current grid was implemented in 2007.

“What they have been trying to unilaterally put into place is a schedule that would force Friday options,” said Kristi Barnwell, chapter vice president of UIS United Faculty.

Traditionally, faculty members would meet with the deans in their department to agree on a schedule that would meet the needs of both the course and the students.

A schedule exemption allows a faculty member to conduct a class outside of the scheduled times.

“We are not changing the published schedule through Fall of 2017,” said Derek Schnapp, director of public relations.

Barnwell said the Monday and Wednesday option is still available, but on a limited basis, and believes that the university is trying to make it harder for faculty to schedule classes that do not have a Friday option.

“We are not changing the process on how courses are scheduled, but allowing more opportunities and times for faculty and students and to make better use of our facilities,” Schnapp said.

Under the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, the scheduling of courses is a “mandatory subject of bargaining” and UIS United Faculty, the tenure and tenure-track faculty union on campus, contest that any change in scheduling policy is a violation.

Schnapp said, “We have been actively engaging the faculty union on the course scheduling process since Spring of 2016.”

In 2015, Ermatinger chaired a 19 member Time & Space Task Force (TSTF) comprised of “various employee groups” on campus, including “faculty and staff from academic and student affairs” and “tenure/tenure-track faculty,” for reviewing and developing course scheduling guidelines to increase the use of classroom space and times when classes would be held.

“We would have liked the opportunity to have an open discussion about the needs of the campus,” said Barnwell.

According to Schnapp, “[The] results used from several student satisfaction surveys and other information from facilities and other academic offices, found that students were not able to get their classes to graduate on time.”

In March 2015, the university administered a student satisfaction inventory (SSI) based on nine “scales” (services and items the university offers). They surveyed 3,352 undergraduate and graduate students by emailing them an electronic survey with the intention to help the university gauge what was important to students on campus.

Completing the survey were 906 students, or 27 percent of the sample.

Instructional Effectiveness, which is assessed students’ academic experience including the effectiveness of faculty, courses content, and sufficient course offerings, ranked as the most important to students who completed the survey.

The survey found that the courses offered and the available times fell into the high importance/low satisfaction category and were a challenge for the university to meet.

The SSI is a nationally standardized survey developed by Ruffalo Noel-Levitz, which is an educational consulting firm headquartered in Cedar Rapids, IA.