Disparities between credit hours and hours spent in class at Butler

Graphic courtesy of honorsociety.org.

ANNA SMITH | OPINION COLUMNIST | agsmith2@butler.edu

Credit hours: our faithful friend, our constant enemy. Every semester of college, we make the decisions and careful picking of classes. “How many credit hours are you taking this semester?” is a quick way to say hi to someone you haven’t seen in six months.

Anyone on campus can clearly see the difference in workload between different majors. Jordan College of the Arts kids might be the most frequent recipients of this question, and for good reason. I know from experience as a musician in orchestra; we spend six hours in class a week and get one measly credit hour for it. This is just one instance of under-credited classes within JCA.

The buns and tights of Butler Ballet students are seldom seen throughout the day. Dance majors are required to block out nine hours of rehearsal on Saturdays for only one credit hour.

Lisa Brooks, dean of JCA, provided me with a table she recently made to show colleagues around Butler’s campus and for the sake of understanding the schedules of students in JCA.

The table outlines three real schedules from first years, each in 17 credit hours of class. It highlights a political science major, a music education major and a dance performance major. By compiling hours per week in each class multiplied by weeks in a semester and adding those up, Brooks calculated how many hours these students are in class per semester.

The typical political science student that Brooks identified is in class for 252 hours a semester, music education major is in class 388 hours a semester, and the dance performance major is in class for a whopping 718.5 hours a semester.

Not only are we talking about scheduled class, but students in the orchestra have extra concerts that require rehearsals on top of the already immense time commitment on Saturday or Sunday mornings. Nutcracker also adds so many extra hours for both instrumentalists and dancers, and let’s not forget about playing for commencement and events like Butler Beyond. If any of these extra events are missed, it will result in a failing grade in the class.

Brooks explained why this structure of misrepresentative credit hours is necessary.

“Butler is a fully accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music; therefore, there are certain competencies that we must demonstrate that a student is able to do by the time they graduate,” Brooks said. “In order to cram all that into four years, the only way we do this from a credit perspective is to do this thing. Every music program, every dance program, every theatre program, it’s the same.”

Essentially, to remain an accredited and legitimate university on a national level, dancers, musicians and theatre students have no choice but to take on course loads that are more time consuming than they seem on paper. This, in turn, means that in order for these students to graduate in four years, their credits can’t accurately represent the time they’re actually in class.

Brooks explains that she is consistently met with reactions of pure shock when explaining this graphic to her colleagues. I know that students on campus acknowledge the busyness of JCA kids, but even as a JCA student myself, I wasn’t aware of these numbers.

All six colleges alike face difficult coursework, but the table that Brooks provided really emphasized how busy JCA kids have to be from semester to semester.

Acknowledging that students may inherently have more on their plate than their class schedule implies will help those students who are struggling under the weight of 15 credit hours feel understood. Whether you’re a faculty member or a student here at Butler, it’s important to show solidarity with your fellow bulldogs and what they’re up against.


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