Claremont McKenna College, which has traditionally offered very few courses on Friday, will increase the number of Friday classes next semester due to a significant loss of classroom space.
According to CMC Dean of Faculty Gregory Hess, the college has temporarily lost a large number of classrooms to the construction of the new Kravis Center, which will be completed in the spring. This has forced the college to move classes to Friday next semester, especially language and literature classes.
“We lost a lot of flexibility when the Pitzer building came down,” Hess said. “We run our rooms extremely tight, and it’s very hard to space-plan everything here. We’re running at almost 90 to 95 percent capacity, which is more than most colleges would be able to do.”
Hess said that the schedule modifications are chiefly motivated by the need to optimize classroom space, and not by a desire to curtail the Thursday night drinking culture at CMC, which has traditionally featured CMC’s Thursday Night Club (TNC). He added that the college’s main focus is always academic.
“It’s not not an issue,” Hess said of the three-night weekend that has developed on the campus. “The overall mission of the institution is the academics … We’re a five-day-week institution and we always have been.”
Still, Thursday night is an active party night at CMC, and the party culture is certainly one of the areas of campus life that could be affected by the shift.
Last September, CMC Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jefferson Huang brought together a group of twenty Pomona students, faculty, and staff to form an Alcohol Task Force (ATF), which met regularly to review the use of alcohol on the campus in depth.
One of the ATF’s major discussions centered around the issue of Friday classes. Upon scrutinizing the online course catalog, the task force found that only 4.3 percent of CMC classes met on Fridays.
While the group did not come to an agreement as to whether more Friday classes should be added, the ATF compromised on the issue in its May 2010 report, which contains 28 recommendations to the college to make the campus social life safer and more responsible.
“We charged the Dean of Faculty with shifting the schedule only if he found good pedagogical reasons for it,” Huang said, adding that “there are compelling arguments on both sides.”
One reason not to add more Friday class meetings is that faculty and students alike commonly use the day for research, committee work, career services support, community service, and other engagements vital to the college, Huang said.
Additionally, Huang pointed out, if given more courses to attend on Fridays, students might simply skip those classes after a night of partying. Professors in the past have expressed an aversion to teaching classes on Fridays, Huang said, especially because a substantial number of students don’t show up, due to the difficulty of resisting the majority of their peers who are free to party on Thursday.
On the other hand, increased Friday class offerings could help reduce binge drinking and unsafe substance use. The Princeton Review recently ranked CMC as the #5 school for “Lots of Beer,” placing it right between the University of Florida and University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.
Exactly what effect increased Friday classes will have on the student body’s behavior is still uncertain. Jesse Blumenthal CM ’11, a CMC Resident Advisor, doubts that a shift to Friday classes will do much to undermine the party culture at the college.
“It would just become people going out Friday and Saturday,” Blumenthal said, pointing out that Friday night has become something of a “rest night” for the party scene here between Thursday and Saturday. “At best, [moving classes to Friday] does nothing,” he said.
Hess said he is confident that the changes planned for next semester’s course schedule will have a modest effect on student life. However, he predicted that the trend of adding Friday classes will continue to grow after this year.
“In future years, Friday will look at lot like the other days of thee week, once we have more capacity,” he said.