Some newer student affairs professionals may remember playing the popular The Sims video game growing up. In it, players with god-like powers could direct their “Sims” to spend their time however they wanted. While student affairs professionals cannot order students to attend programs with the click of a button, they do maintain at least some influence over how students direct their time outside the classroom.
Student affairs professionals primarily use programming to influence the scheduling decisions of students. In seeking positive student outcomes, student affairs professionals keep a degree of responsibility for when programs occur. However, I argue this responsibility may even extend beyond students. Time feels evermore scarce in our world, and this scarcity occasionally drives a spirit of competition, especially among faculty and administrators edging for students’ participation. Student affairs professionals must be cognizant of how they influence student schedules. Such designs not only impact student well-being, but also often have unintentional consequences for other campus entities.
Consider the connection between programming and student anxiety. In a time when student anxiety rates have never been higher, too many programs can make students feel more overwhelmed. Student affairs professionals often pride themselves on the number of programs offered. Yet in the enthusiasm for programming, sometimes the needs for cycles of rest go neglected. Students need these cycles to reflect on or recuperate from activity. Similar to the planned naps our pre-school teachers gave us, opting not to program allows students space to process their collegiate experiences in addition to crucial homework time. Poor timing of programs potentially creates dilemmas. For instance, student activities may plan an exciting week of community-building programs, and the English department holds a lecture series during the same week.
Both sets of activities engender positive student outcomes, but this forces some students to choose attending one set of activities because of their schedule. Such situations feel often unavoidable in the quickly passing school year. In addition, when programs happen during the same week, dissension between sponsoring departments may occur. Angry emails and passive-aggressive gestures may result as each side argues for their program’s institutional priority over the other. These actions deepen the divide between faculty and student affairs professionals, despite their common purpose to serve students.
The clashes which arise from scheduling programming may feel fated. However, student affairs professionals can help create more holistic schedules with better planning and collaboration. This starts before the school year begins. Administrators and faculty can register dates for annual events through a shared online database. This allows scheduling conflicts to emerge early. Once campus calendars become clearer, faculty and administrators can adjust the schedule through dialogue, creating more opportunity for balanced student schedules. During the school year, department chairs and vice presidents can require an ethic of checking the campus calendar while scheduling. Close collaboration with other campus entities is vital for effectiveness. Faculty and student affairs professionals often have differing perspectives on what students need, yet can find common ground if effort is given. Collaboration over the programming schedule minimizes conflicts and promotes the sequencing of programming in parallel with student development. Administrators can also mandate their student leaders to look at the campus calendar in planning events. Student organization presidents and resident assistants strongly influence the behavior of their peers more than many administrators and faculty can. As a result, student leaders become more attuned to the planning involved in making a successful program.
The pressures faced by higher education will continue to make schedules hectic for faculty, administrators, and students. Unlike the digital characters of The Sims video game however, humans can only face so much pressure from their schedules before a real breakdown occurs. For campus communities to flourish, the process of scheduling programming must account for human needs of activity and non-activity, movement and rest. Members of the campus community do not exist in vacuums. Their activity inevitably leads them to bump into one another by virtue of shared space. We make our campus experience more just and beautiful for our community when we take into our consideration not just our own time, but also the time of others around us.