Cal Poly’s Academic Senate is in the process of revising faculty office hours — a policy that hasn’t been updated in approximately 30 years.
At a meeting last week, the Senate discussed the issues of office hours during finals week, whether office hours include email time and making it mandatory for students and professors to know final exam days before class registration.
In regard to finals week, the current office hour policy may be misleading, Academic Programs Faculty Coordinator Bruno Giberti said.
In turn, the Academic Senate came up with a resolution.
“The main goal is pretty simple: To make it clear to the campus that (the policy of having office hours) ‘each week’ includes finals week,” Giberti said in an email to Mustang News.
The resolution began with a request from Student Ombuds Services for clarification on the policy.
“Student Ombud Services let me know that some people were frequently coming to them saying that faculty members are not in office hours,” Academic Senate Chair Steven Rein said. “When they passed that issue on to me, I passed that to the Instruction Committee to take a look at that and the Campus Administrative Manual.”
According to the Campus Administrative Manual, the university’s office hours policy requires that each full-time faculty member schedules and conducts at least five office hours per week.
However, the policy does not specifically include finals week, which is a critical time for students to reach their instructors, Giberti said.
“The Academic Senate has a fairly broad purview to deal with faculty issues that are not regulated by the faculty contract,” Giberti said. “In this case, the contract has little to say beyond observing that ‘faculty members have additional professional responsibilities such as … maintaining office hours.’”
From the point of the full Senate, that’s where it’s “a bit of a sticky issue,” Rein said.
“Some faculty may say that their finals are Monday, and that there’s no need for them to stay for the rest of the week, while others may say that their students contacted them after finals because they wanted to know their grades,” he said.
The resolution also acknowledges student-professor email interaction and the possibility of allowing weekend office hours before finals, Rein said.
“A faculty member could choose to have the weekend if students wanted additional hours, and that would count toward their office hours,” he said. “The resolution would also include understanding that sometimes email interaction can count towards office hours.”
According to mechanical engineering professor Glen Thorncroft, many faculty members weren’t against the resolution, but were instead surprised something like this had to be put into policy.
“If anyone seemed to be against the resolution, it would probably be because we’re shocked that we would need to have a resolution like this,” he said. “The idea is that it comes from a good place — reminding faculty why they’re here.”
Provost Kathleen Enz Finken agreed, but added that there may be some flexibility in the policy.
“It’s very appropriate that faculty members make themselves available to students during finals week, but I don’t know that it necessarily has to be during the same hours that they would have their office hours during the regular quarter,” she said. “Because finals week, there are so many things that change in terms of schedule.”
But the main point, Enz Finken said, is the Senate wanted the language to be clear so faculty know when they’re expected to hold office hours.
“I don’t know the percentage of faculty that are on campus during finals week and hold office hours, so I don’t know if it’s really a problem or just a reminder,” she said.
The full Academic Senate is set to vote on the resolution on June 3.