Veterans, students with disabilities, athletes and honors students are four groups of students that receive priority scheduling at Slippery Rock University.
Elliot Baker, the executive director of Academic Records and Summer School at SRU, said that, aside from veterans, these groups have traditionally received scheduling privileges from the university.
“November was the first time veterans received priority scheduling,” Baker said, stating that a recently passed Pennsylvania law gave veteran students at public universities priority scheduling over other undergraduates.
He explained that the law wasn’t required to be implemented until July of 2015, but a test run was done to see how it would work out.
Baker indicated that, while graduate students schedule before anyone else, veteran undergraduates schedule second, followed by undergraduates with disabilities, who are also given priority scheduling by law in some circumstances.
Linda Quidone, the director of SRU’s Office for Students with Disabilities, noted that priority scheduling is only one service offered to disabled students and that not all students with disabilities are eligible for the same services.
Before a student is eligible for disability services, they must schedule a meeting with the Office for Students with Disabilities to discuss their classroom needs and submit documentation from a medical doctor, licensed psychologist or other medical professional confirming their disability and required accommodations, Quidone said.
“For instance, a student who has ambulation issues would be scheduled for classes that are in close proximity to their other classes to avoid undue walking,” Quidone added.
Other conditions that may warrant priority scheduling include learning disabilities, health and medical concerns, ADD/ADHD, physical impairments, hearing and visual disabilities, emotional/psychological impairments, autism and traumatic brain injuries, Quidone said.
Baker noted that the university is required to reasonably accommodate student disabilities or risk a lawsuit.
The honors program was given priority scheduling about 20 years ago as an incentive for students to register for the program and stick with it throughout their college career, Baker said.
“One of our associate vice presidents thought that priority scheduling would be a reasonable incentive to keep students in this more rigorous academic program,” he continued.
QPA is not a factor in whether or not honor’s students receive priority scheduling, just that they continue to register for the program, Baker said.
Student athletes are given priority scheduling to prevent conflicts between class times and their team commitments and to ensure they are able to keep up their grades, Baker said.
Athletes use this priority to avoid late afternoon and evening classes, which conflict with most athletic events, he added.
“Our athletes spend a lot of time representing our university on the athletic field and are actually retained at higher rates than the general student population,” Baker said. “However, we can’t say for sure if this higher retention rate is the result of priority scheduling,” he continued.
For the past 10 years, senior athletes have been permitted to schedule one hour before the rest of the senior class, while junior, sophomore and freshmen athletes may schedule one hour before the junior class, Baker explained.
“All these groups received priority scheduling from outside interests,” Baker said. “Academic Records and Summer School does not advocate for any of them.”
Baker acknowledged student concerns over priority scheduling and its effects on seat availability for SRU core requirements, notably Public Speaking.
“Public Speaking has always had a tremendous backlog,” Baker said. “It is possible that sophomores and juniors with priority scheduling have bottled it up.”
However, Baker noted that the root of this problem is the lack of Public Speaking courses offered, which winter and summer offerings have helped in recent years.
“Freshmen are not taking Public Speaking spots from sophomores,” Baker said, noting that most freshmen have not taken the prerequisites needed for Public Speaking. “One sophomore who has priority scheduling is taking the spot from another sophomore who doesn’t,”
Baker acknowledged the quality concerns of some university professors over online public speaking classes, which the university has recently offered.
“My office also oversees summer school and I actually sat in on two or three student speeches, since they’re required to present to a small audience,” Baker said. “I actually thought the setup was kind of cool.”
Baker noted that priority scheduling is temporary, and that a student who discontinues any prioritized program will lose the right to schedule early.