Early Class: Half-hour Reprieve

August 1, 2004

Duke has been in the news for getting rid of eight o'clock classes and fighting sleep deprivation among students. Both facts are true, but the two actions actually have nothing to do with each other, despite press reports to the contrary.

In the fall, university officials will implement an individual wellness plan for all first-year students that will focus on sleep, exercise, and nutrition. This health initiative was prompted by a growing concern among faculty members, student-affairs officials, and staff members at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) that students weren't getting enough sleep. The university decided to take a preventive approach to sleep deprivation and other issues that cause students to come to CAPS or the student health center, explains Ryan Lombardi, assistant dean of students.

While the wellness initiative was being put together, a second and unrelated committee was reviewing the university course schedule, which has been in place for at least two decades, and assessing whether it still meets student and faculty needs. The committee of faculty members, administrators, and undergraduates found that the current overcrowding of classes between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays forced many students to choose between two or more classes offered at the same time. It recommended spreading out courses over the day and the week.

As a result, more courses will be offered during the first period of the day, although that period will now begin at 8:30 or 8:45 instead of 8:00, says Judith Ruderman, vice provost and a committee member.