Student attendance lower on Fridays

By Chelsey Boutan

For sophomore engineering major Dan Drenth, having no class on Fridays is a dream.

One extra day to sleep in and study would be nice, Drenth said. Unfortunately, he has classes scheduled five days a week.

Fewer on-campus class sections were held this semester on Fridays compared to Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Some NIU students, faculty and staff speculate as to why this is, but there doesn’t seem to be one clear reason.

Vice Provost Anne Birberick said although there were, overall, fewer class sections held at the college on Fridays this semester, this may not be true across certain academic departments. For example, the mathematical sciences department has more classes on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or four-day schedule than a Tuesday, Thursday schedule. Decisions regarding what courses are offered and during what days and times are made at the department level, Birberick said.

Birberick said there might not be any night classes offered on Fridays. This could contribute to why there were less class sections scheduled on Fridays this semester compared to other days of the week.

John Wolfskill, assistant chair in the department of mathematical sciences, said the department schedules classes on Fridays whenever possible and avoids scheduling a Monday, Wednesday, middle-of-the-day class because then those classrooms will be left empty on Fridays.

“We’re constantly fighting for classroom space,” Wolfskill said. “We can’t afford to throw any away.”

Wolfskill said an “obvious problem” the department has to fight is a decline in students’ attendance on Fridays. To “defend against that,” Wolfskill said professors try to schedule exams and quizzes on Fridays, and some count attendance as part of their students’ overall grades.

Anthropology professor Judy Ledgerwood also sees a dip in attendance during her Friday morning and afternoon classes. She organized a field trip on a Friday, and only three of the 20 students in her class went. Ledgerwood said many students don’t want to come to class, or they have to work on Fridays.

“Students work a lot more than they used to,” Ledgerwood said. “In a way, maybe college is a lot less fun, because people have to work so many hours just to try to get by.”

Another possible reason for why there are less class sections held on Fridays is that some professors prefer a Tuesday, Thursday schedule verses a three, four, or five-day-a-week schedule that has class on Fridays.

Assistant journalism professor In Duk Kim said she likes a Tuesday, Thursday schedule better because then she has more time to show movies, go over articles and have in-class discussions.

A four-day school week at NIU, without Fridays, could happen in the future, Kim said.

“Whether it’s a desirable choice is a different question,” Kim said. “If the financial situation of the institution becomes worse, then it’s definitely a possible scenario.”

On the other hand, Wolfskill said moving to a four-day school week would be “physically impossible” unless there was a donation of millions of dollars to build more classroom buildings.

Wolfskill said it would also be unlikely because NIU President John Peters wants to increase enrollment to 30,000 students by 2020. With a four-day school week, there wouldn’t be enough classroom space to fit all those students, Wolfskill said.

“Peters is trying to increase enrollment, not a little bit, but a lot,” Wolfskill said. “So if we are going anywhere near the direction that the president want us to, I don’t know where we would put students unless we get more classroom buildings. We certainly can’t afford to go to a four-day schedule.”

For students like Ignacio Rojas, junior physical education major, it doesn’t matter if there are less classes scheduled on Fridays, as long as he is able to sign up for the classes he needs to graduate.

“I’m willing to give up my Fridays if it means getting out of here faster,” Rojas said. “It’s going to be like that in the real world, so I can’t complain about not having Fridays off.”