4

Usually, I poll my students at the beginning of the semester and voluntarily tweak my office hours if someone can't come to any of them (or offer office hours by appointment when appropriate). So I don't, in general, have a problem with doing this.

This semester, however, I am teaching two sections (100+ students each) of a very large centrally coordinated course. There are several other instructors and many graduate student TAs. All students are welcome in any and all office hours.

With that many students and so many office hours to choose from, I feel less accommodating with respect to modifying my hours. A large part of this hesitation is that I have extra responsibilities associated to the development of this course, so I'm already spending more time than usual on it. AND I'm applying for jobs.

I chose my current office hours for time management purposes. I've been asked by a few students if I could move one to a different day (a day that I usually work from home) or take appointments outside of my regularly scheduled office hour, and I really don't want to. In fact, I feel a little bit like it's inappropriate for them to make the request in a class this large and with so many resources already available.

Is it unreasonable for me to flat out refuse to change them?

  • 9
    It's not inappropriate for them to ask, but you can certainly say no. Politely remind them they can go to anyone's office hours. – user37208 Sep 12 '16 at 3:31
  • I suppose the manner in which they asked came across as more inappropriate than the fact they asked at all. Mostly the request has been along the lines of "Your office hours don't really work for me, so I'd like to come meet with you on a different day. I want to say hi and introduce myself." It feels too familiar on the one hand, and a little artificial on the other, as if they read instructions on how to distinguish themselves with their prof. in a large lecture class. I just can't picture the interaction happening like this with a senior faculty member. – Neuling Sep 12 '16 at 19:40
  • Funny enough, I had a similar thing happen my first year lecturing. A student wanted to meet with me "to get acquainted" and when the meeting came he...just sat there and didn't have anything to say or ask. Maybe he wanted me to ask him something? Someone had obviously told him "get to know your professors" but had left out the caveat "don't waste their time." – user37208 Sep 13 '16 at 2:04
  • Sure it depends on the reasons for such request- I had awful timetable which made some classes impossible to attend and whether other instructors can cover them. – user2617804 Oct 2 '17 at 4:24
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If there are many different office hours on many different days and times, then it should be possible for nearly all of the students to find some time that is possible for them. As such, moving office hours around is probably not necessary.

Likewise, it is entirely reasonable to defend your own time by not making appointments outside of other office hours.

There may, however, be a couple of students who have extraordinary circumstances that make it impossible for them to come to any of the available hours and which should be accommodated. For example:

  • A non-traditional student may be juggling classes, work, and child-care responsibilities.
  • A "semi-professional" student athlete may have a punishing travel schedule.
  • Somebody with a major physical disability may have a schedule severely impacted by mobility and transport constraints.

As such, when a student makes a request for alternative office hours, I would recommend responding as follows:

  • Present the set of all office hours as alternatives.
  • If they can't make any of them, ask if there are extenuating circumstances affecting their schedule.
  • If you find their circumstances compelling, then make arrangements for you or one of the other instructors or TAs to meet them outside of normal office hours.

Accommodating one or two exceptional cases is a reasonable degree to stretch, but in the presence of many options, there is no reason to invite major impact on your own schedule merely for the sake of people's convenience and preference. Poll to figure out which of the alternatives you'd be comfortable offering is best for the students, but don't go further than that except for the exceptional cases.

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    Also perhaps worth noting that it may be possible to meet by phone or videoconference to reduce the impact on your schedule. – Flyto Sep 12 '16 at 9:47

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