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The most important job that every chair must attempt to master is scheduling. Scheduling is very much like playing chess and takes many years to master. Like chess, you have a game board (the room scheduler), players (teachers), pieces (classes), and rules (the where, when, why, what, and who of curricular offerings). Let’s start by understanding that the perfect schedule has never been written. Let’s also understand that the world is in flux and changing circumstances force us to revise our near perfect schedules every time an event beyond our control forces us to react. Some departments are easier to schedule than others. The size of the department is the major determiner of how difficult your task will be. The other factor is the complexity of your program offerings. If every student has to follow the same course track then schedules will be predictable from semester to semester. The entire scheduling process is continually destabilized by the needs of the adjunct faculty members you supervise. Their precarious financial condition requires you to be humane and accommodating in the assignment of their classes, especially when their circumstances change at the last minute. In our department we have a BA degree program with five concentrations. We also offer the BFA degree for four performance concentrations as well as music and audio technology. That means that the curricular needs of the department and the scheduling needs of the paying customers are sometimes operating at cross purposes on multiple levels, much like three-dimensional chess or a Mensa-designed video game. Soon enough you will come to understand that you cannot please all the people all the time. The creation of teaching schedules must take into account faculty interests and expertise, time constraints and space limitations, economic exigencies, and a host of other factors many of which are beyond your control.

The Grand Schedule
: The process of scheduling begins with the Grand Schedule. This is a list of all the courses the department has offered in the past ten years or might offer in the next five. This schedule can have as little as four columns or as many as six depending on the number of semesters you offer courses each academic year: course number, course name, fall, winter, spring, summer. As you can see from the example, the number of sections needed is put in the appropriate semester box. It is very helpful to color-coded courses that are offered every semester (purple), only in the fall (orange), only in the spring (light green), or on an irregular basis in blue. This helps you spot the courses you need to include for a particular semester more easily. You can construct this list from the Bulletin. Checking the master list of courses on SIMS is often quite instructive. You can ask the Scheduling Office to send a copy.

Scheduling Spread Sheet: Next, take the relevant data from the Grand Schedule and enter it on a spreadsheet that will, by design,  effectively serve both you and the Scheduling Office. The spreadsheet should have ten columns: course number, section, course name, teaching hours, lower class size limit, upper class size limit, days, times, rooms, and instructor. Much of the data on this spreadsheet will be usable from semester to semester, or from year to year. When you have accumulated a library of spreadsheets all you need to do is take the previous equivalent schedule and delete the courses you will not be offering this time and add those that you will. This can be facilitated if you color-code the special courses that change from year to year. If your Grand Schedule is under control this will be relatively easy. By under control I mean that 90% of your course offerings are pre-planned on a two-year basis. You want to make sure that you offer all required courses frequently enough so that students can graduate on time. There will always be experimental or elective courses that are offered on an as-needed basis but they should be kept to a minimum. Most importantly, you and your students need to know well in advance when required courses will be offered so that the path to graduation can be planned efficiently. It is critical to check that you have not scheduled required courses for particular groups of people at the same time. Quite often we find these conflicts during registration when it is difficult to adjust the schedule to rectify the problem, so double check early. To determine how many sections of general education courses you will need you should consult the registration numbers from previous semesters as reported in SIMS (CSQ). This will help you plan courses that are well attended. This should help to avoid the embarrassing questions that come from above about enrollments that are in the single digits. You also need to find out if the incoming freshman class size will change from last year. We get that information from Admissions.

Faculty Workload Report
: The next step in the process is to determine what courses will be taught by your full-time faculty members. Begin by asking your people what they would like to teach. This allows them to tell you their personal preferences and scheduling necessities. You also find out if they will be on fellowship leave, in Timbuktu on a Fullbright, or teaching at the Graduate Center. If you have several people who are all interested in teaching the same class you will need to set up a separate schedule of teaching rotation so that, over time, everyone gets a chance to teach that particular course. You must make sure that faculty members are assigned the correct number of teaching and non-teaching hours according to the contract: 21 hours a year for professors and 27 hours for lecturers. Once they have been assigned to particular courses you can see what still needs to be covered by your phalanx of adjuncts. Try to give these under-paid and too-often under-appreciated people a schedule that is tight, meaning back-to-back classes on one- or two-day schedules. This is important because they need to get to their other jobs so they can feed their families. It is very important to find out when they are available before you begin adjunct assignments. Adjuncts who have been with you for six consecutive semesters must be hired by the academic year.

The Room Schedule
: This is where it all comes together. The room schedule is your game board. You have a certain number of classes you want to offer and you want to place them in the appropriate rooms at the most opportune times. This chart will have two axes: time and space. Put the time periods (by the half hour) on the vertical axis starting with 8:00AM. On the horizontal axis put the room numbers available to you. It is important to know the capacity of each space, so you may actually have to visit each room and count the chairs. You don’t want to schedule SRO classes! Certain rooms have particular purposes or equipment that are important to keep in mind. Take the course data from your Scheduling Spreadsheet and enter it on the room schedule. Begin with the required courses for your majors. Put the course number and section in the box when the class begins followed by the instructor’s name in the box below. Then color code the data according to the degree track it serves. On my room schedule all GenEd courses are blue, theory and musicianship are gold, jazz courses are red, graduate courses are green, etc. This helps avoid scheduling conflicts for students in particular tracks. The more data you put on the room schedule the more difficult the task becomes because the options decrease. This process often reminds one of a Rubik’s Cube because changing one class time or room usually affects many other assignments. This part of the process requires much finesse and prior experience.

The final product:
After you have done all this you have a schedule that you think works just fine. Verify that this is truly the case by sending the schedule and room chart to all teachers who are affected by your Herculean efforts. The more eyes you have inspecting your handiwork the more accurate it will be. Be prepared to make changes suggested by your teaching staff. Warning: The editing process is often more time consuming than the planning. Below is a suggested timeline for the submission and correction of your final product for fall semesters. Make every attempt to adhere to this timeline because many people and much work go into the publication of the Course Schedule that is posted online. Get to know the nice people who work in the Scheduling Office because you will need their help and good humor when you want to make all those last minute changes. Hang in there; it gets easier.  

                             SCHEDULING TIMELINE: FALL SEMESTER
November 1        Departments to send schedules to Scheduling.
February 1         
Edited Schedules sent back to departments for review.
February 21        Final deadline for scheduling changes.
March 21            
Final schedule sent to departments for error checking.
April 1
                Schedule of classes is posted online.
April 21
              Final Examination schedule is posted online.
Middle of June     New Student registration begins
July 1                   Updated Instructor lists due to scheduling.
July 15                 Phase 1 cancellations sent to registrar’s office.
August 1              Last day to submit TBA information to registrar’s office.
August 15           Phase 2 cancellations sent to registrar’s office.
End of August     Last day of registration (day before classes begin)
End of August     Classes begin
Early September Preliminary enrollment report due to CUNY
September 15     Last day to submit Independent Study forms.
October 1            Staff and teaching Load reports sent to departments.
October 15
         Staff and teaching Load reports due to scheduling.