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(Arshaaq Jiffry / The McGill Tribune)

Minerva schedules cause confusion over semester end dates

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Every academic year, the Committee on Enrolment and Students Affairs (CESA) and the McGill University Senate approve the Calendar of Academic Dates, which stipulates dates for the start and end of classes and other important events throughout the semester. CESA and Senate approved the Calendar of Academic Dates 2017-2018 in April and May 2014, respectively.

The Calendar determines the end date for each class depending on its schedule: Classes that met only on Wednesdays were scheduled to end on Nov. 29, while classes that met Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays ended on Dec. 6. Moreover, because Thursday, Dec. 7 followed a Monday schedule, classes that met only on Mondays ended on that day.

However, according to Associate Professor of English and Jewish Studies Yael Halevi-Wise, this calendar is not widely-used among professors, many of whom instead preferred to use Minerva’s weekly teaching schedules which contain their class itineraries for each week of the semester.

“When I designed the course syllabus before the semester began, [the] first thing I did was consult my personalized Minerva schedule,” Halevi-Wise said. “I planned all meetings and assignments accordingly. It was therefore surprising to find out that what looks like a personalized schedule on Minerva was actually not offering correct information.”

As the end of the semester approached, many professors and students came to realize that the class dates in the Minerva schedules did not match those approved by the Senate for the Fall semester. While different courses end on different dates, only one final date, Thursday, Dec. 7, can be entered into Minerva. Thus, Minerva schedules display classes as if they would be going up until that date, when in reality some of them were supposed to end before.

“The fact that courses on the Minerva schedules do not match the varying Senate last date of classes is a system limitation in that there is no logic in the system to automatically generate the specific end dates on each course based on the various schedule patterns of the courses,” Interim University Registrar (Enrolment Services) Anna Walsh wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune.

Faced with complaints and confusion, the administration instructed professors to follow the Calendar of Academic Dates 2017-2018 instead of their Minerva schedules.

“There was an email sent around on [Nov. 21] that said that there had been some questions about when the last classes would be, based on the 39 [hours of class required for every three-credit course], the Minerva class schedule, and the key dates,” Associate Professor of History and Classical Studies Lynn Kozak said. “I think that they knew that there was some gap [between those things]. There was some clarity the next day within [the Faculty of] Arts, [explaining] the dates approved by the Senate.”

Although professors have had to amend their course syllabi, Halevi-Wise feels that the burden of the scheduling discrepancy has largely fallen on students.

“Students have very complex schedules,” Halevi-Wise said. “They budget their time very carefully, and if all of a sudden there’s confusion, it affects them when they’re studying for an exam, [working] on projects that they have to get somebody to do, if they [have a job].”

Until being approached for an interview by the Tribune on Dec. 1, Associate Dean (Student Affairs) for the Faculty of Arts Lucyna Lach remained unaware of any errors in students’ schedules. Despite gaps in communication over end dates for classes, the administration recognizes the negative impacts this mistake has had. Lach said she has now brought Arts professors’ attention to the discrepancies in the Minerva schedules via email.

“It has now become evident that it is critical to resolve this issue so that all versions of the Class Schedule and myCourses reflect the accurate end dates on each course section,” Walsh said. “Students and instructors should not be expected to look elsewhere for that information. Enrolment Services will be working with IT early in the new year to have special coding implemented to address this issue.”

Although Lach claimed rectifying the confusion is a priority for the McGill’s administration, Information Technology Services (ITS) directors were not informed of the flawed  Minerva schedules. When asked for comment by the Tribune, Chief Information Officer and Associate Vice-Principal at ITS Ghilaine Roquet denied any issues, and did not provide any plans for amending the discrepancies in Minerva schedules.

“There were no issues with Minerva personalized schedules,” Roquet wrote.

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