I initially started off writing strongly against the email that was sent out earlier by the Vice-Provost about the adjustment in the morning class time slot from 8.30am – 11.45am to 8.15am – 11.30am. However, when I did the calculations it won me over. And oh, I still feel sore about the email on one other point: presentation.
The initial reaction from my groups of friends were unmistakable: rage, rage and more rage. Almost everyone, if not all felt that SMU administration was yielding to some unknown forces too easily. The concerns were clear. For those who live in the far reaches of the island, it meant waking earlier, too early. For those who have an established routine before morning classes, it meant shorter or no breakfast, gym, run sessions. For the most, the concerns were on the future impact on the BOSS bidding. Undoubtedly, everyone would now want to bid more for afternoon lessons rather than the morning classes. My rage? None. I was actually more amused by my friends’ reaction.
An earlier starting time will indeed force most students to avoid the morning transportation crunch and thereby help LTA to relief the transportation load. But by how much? With the ever increase intakes year on year, we can safely assume that SMU is currently operating with at least 90% of the seminar rooms and classrooms taken up for classes. 90% of 67SRs and 20 classrooms gives about 3915 students (assuming 50 students in each class).
The rolling stock of the train network has a capacity of at least 1900 passengers per train (if Wikipedia is to be trusted), with exception of the stock on Circle Line of at least 1000. SMU, being in the centre of the city, all the lines are more or converging on the university. Assuming that the trains set off from the far reaches of the island in waves, at any one point in time, there can be at least 8000 passengers moving towards the city centre in one wave. Even with discounting of students who come in on buses, private transportation modes and even on foot and stretching the students into 4 waves, it meant that for each wave, SMU students can account for about 12.5% of the passenger load.
This is pretty much significant, at least to LTA. If you are tasked to lightened the transportation load of such magnitude daily, one will choose to target the big group first as well.
That being said, what is in for the students? Frankly, nothing much. We students are seemingly receiving the short end of the stick. And the sweetener in the email is not much of a sweet deal too.
I fail to see how shifting the morning classes earlier encourages students to take back to back lessons. Granted that students (and sometimes, professors and lecturers alike) currently have 15 minutes to rush from one class to another while trying to grab a lunch bite, people adapt. An eye or two are usually closed to students who bring in their meal, despite the fact that there is a Do No Eat sign. The start of the lesson is usually a recap of previous lesson or a quick Q&A to clear minor yet nagging doubts, while allowing the stragglers to rush in from another location. 30 minutes is certainly not enough if the student has to walk from SOE to LKCSB and gets lunch as well.
Also, what about subsequent slots? There are students who takes 2 afternoon lessons and other who seats in classes from 3.30pm to 10pm. Is the administration going to extend the break times as well for the others to encourage back-to-back lessons? If so, then when will the school day end for the students and the teachers?
However still, we should give the school administration some credits. They announce it early (a tad too early, in my opinion). It will not affect us for this semester, but the next. We are not thrown totally into chaos. Also they are opened to review of this policy as well. This, however, is still lacking.
What could have been done better?
- Hold the announcement and craft a better email out.From now to the next semester, there is at least 10 weeks. 10 weeks worth to communicate to the student body. Put in some facts and figures. Items like how a lighter train in the morning can actually shorten travelling time. I made that up. But at least build a more convincing line of reasoning, please.
- Tell SMUSA, the Student Association, executive committee first.Get them to suss out what are the concerns and at least act that the administration cares. Instead of a one-liner,
“We seek the understanding of everyone to make the slight adjustments…”
something along the line,
“We understand that it may impact future BOSS bidding, etc… Please bear with us, as we are also unclear, but the policy will definitely be reviewed for necessary adjustments later in the year.”
sounds much nicer. Hey, at least we are being heard in this scenario!
P.S. To the students who only thinks of how the 15 minutes can ‘kill’, please think of how we had to wake up at early in the morning, from primary school to junior college, just to meet the 7.15-7.30am deadline.