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Background: I am a junior undergrad math major in India, and I am taking a graduate-level math course this semester for which attendance is mandatory. This is the last week of instruction (i.e., Friday is the last working day of the semester), and it is immediately followed by endterm exams (starting Saturday itself). One of my professors wishes to take certain classes and meet for presentations (by students), after dinner time. This is quite unusual, keeping in mind that the official university timetable does not have any lecture slots after 20:00. Regardless, I do not mind it, as long as the classes/presentations do not run for too long. We plan to meet at 20:00/20:30, and it's no trouble if the classes end by 22:30, or even 23:00, in the worst case. I am an early sleeper, I have faced certain sleep issues in the past, and I strongly do not prefer late night classes, i.e., ones that may run beyond 22:30 for example.

Question: How can I communicate my concerns and politely request the professor to perhaps ensure (i) some upper bound on the classes/presentation time, (ii) that I do not have to stay too late, or (iii) find some other time, earlier in the day? It seems like a reasonable ask since the class timings are abnormal, and later than usual. I would prefer not to play around much with my sleep schedule, especially since finals are starting soon.

Update: Thank you everyone for your advice! I voiced my concerns firmly to the instructor and requested a different, possibly earlier time slot. With consent from other students in the course, we were able to figure out a time in the afternoon/early evening for the final presentations! It's a win.

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    These are really late times. I can't imagine listening to a presentation given at 22:00 and not falling asleep!
    – HFBrowning
    Apr 19 at 16:35
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    So in the last week of class he suddenly scheduled late night classes?
    – Barmar
    Apr 19 at 16:53
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    @StephenG-HelpUkraine Requiring students to attend classes and present after normal class hours (10 pm and even later!) should absolutely not be considered a "viable alternative."
    – Andrew
    Apr 20 at 3:52
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    I think you’d get better advice asking somewhere India-specific. Nothing at all like this happens in any university I’m familiar with, and the same is true of the vast majority of users of this site. Apr 20 at 12:47
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    @StephenG-HelpUkraine Yeah, but people sign up for those knowing the schedule. It's unacceptable to require students to do their final presentations outside of class time, much less outside of the university operating hours. No one said anything about evening courses being less serious. Apr 20 at 21:58

3 Answers 3

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You just have to ask, but you probably can't affect the schedule since the professor has other constraints. But you could ask to make your own presentation early in the time period or at some alternate time, giving the reasons.

They might make an accommodation or not. But your ask is probably reasonable as long as you don't make it a complaint or try to move the entire session.

If the presentations are by groups, not individuals, you might even be able to request an excused absence, offering to make it up, somehow at some other time.

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    The presentations are by individuals, and I shall request to make my presentation early in the time period. While it is mandatory to attend other students' presentations, I hope the professor won't mind if it gets too late (I have an exam the next day, and invariably, I need to get proper sleep). Apr 19 at 12:42
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    Make sure he is informed of your constraints, especially the next-day exam. You might also explore options with that other professor about a special exam for that course.
    – Buffy
    Apr 19 at 12:44
  • Thanks, I have informed the professor of my constraints! Apr 19 at 12:45
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    Since this is a graduate-level class, one of the constraints may be that the other students are working during the day and can only take evening classes.
    – shoover
    Apr 19 at 14:48
  • Don't forget you're probably not the only one with a similar concern. Your request will help the instructor understand just how many people are impacted and can reduce the likelihood of similar late events in the future, even if it doesn't result in any changes for this particular instance.
    – bta
    Apr 19 at 19:58
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Not sure about India, but in the US and other countries I have experience with, a professor cannot schedule mandatory class meetings at a time that contravenes the normal university policy about when classes can be scheduled. If this also applies in India, then you do not need to request anything, only to inform. For example, by writing an email like this:

Dear Professor,

I am looking forward to our presentation session this Friday at 20:00. I wanted to let you know however that I will have to leave at 22:00.

Sincerely,

connected-subgroup

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    Well-intentioned advice, but not applicable in most Indian universities (which are diverse in their norms and practices). OP, please don't do this. I should also add that these unusual times are often popular with a large set of students who (supposedly) find it productive/convenient etc. Apr 20 at 5:56
  • @AppliedAcademic can you explain in what way specifically the advice isn’t applicable?
    – Dan Romik
    Apr 20 at 5:57
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    Instructors are often given large leeway with scheduling. If the university is residential (most students live on campus- I think this is OP's situation), this is a fairly common practice, and not clandestine. A request may be considered for genuine reasons (I believe OP's might), but summary information will not be taken well in the cultural context. Apr 20 at 6:05
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    @AppliedAcademic okay. I admit I do not know Indian culture well enough to judge the relevance of what I wrote.
    – Dan Romik
    Apr 20 at 6:06
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With the cultural context & geography in mind, I suggest you determine how important this issue is to you. Is it the hill you choose to die upon (something you stand by, irrespective of the cost), a minor inconvenience, or something in between.

If it is minor, I agree with @Arriel that you should try to put up with it. The instructor is probably operating under some time constraints and this may be the only available slot.

If the inconvenience is severe, please speak to the instructor and try to work out a mutually accommodative solution. If others are in the same boat, you will have a stronger case. Conversely, if most of the class enjoys this time, then you may consider evaluating what makes your requirement different from theirs- this could also help articulate your case clearly.

I have been part of similarly scheduled activities, and found them to be more common in residential universities (the logistics of off-normal classes are simpler here). My impression is that these are the only ways long activities (longer than a lecture hour) can be accommodated. The presentation model you describe- where other students are required to attend and critique- is one such. Personally, I (and most others, if I remember right) found these rather enjoyable and relaxed (partly because the instructors were generous with coffee and snacks). This may also be because the focus of the activity was different than a usual lecture; paper discussions at times, seminars at others, applied tutorials occassionally.

You may have an entirely different experience; if you feel strongly against it, do communicate with the instructor amicably. Don't escalate unless you've done this.

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    Thanks a lot for your advice! Kindly check the updated post. Also, yes, you had the most accurate judgement of the situation - in that instructors here are given large leeway with scheduling, and even though the time slots were outside usual university operating hours; there was no "official" way to show that this contravenes university policy. Furthermore, quite a few students also found it convenient, given that all of us stay on-campus, so traveling is not an issue. Anyway, I'm glad we figured something out! Apr 21 at 4:21
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    Well done, congratulations! Apr 21 at 6:30

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