T3: The Free Zone

Statement of Free Time (EPC, 2000):

On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday the hours of 4:25 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., on Fridays the hours after 4:25 p.m., on Saturday the hours after 12:05 p.m., and all day Sunday shall be free from all formal undergraduate classes or laboratory exercises.


Study Questions

  1. Are there any allowable types of academic activity that can take place during the Free Zone? A review session prior to a prelim? A special one-time-only meeting of the class  (say for student presentations) because the class period is too short? Courses that involve outside speakers? Engaged Cornell type courses that don’t meet in classrooms?
  2. How should exceptions be processed? E.g. HADM 4300, various Music courses such as Music 3603, certain courses taught in NYC such as Art 3103.
  3. Should an instructor be allowed to teach an undergraduate course during the Free Zone if a vote is taken  and everyone in the course approves? Likewise, should it be OK to schedule a late-in-the-term Free Zone activity provided it  is announced on the first day of class? Finally, in a big-lecture-multiple-section course, would it be OK to schedule one of the sections in the Free Zone provided it is always possible for students to register for a “regular time” section if they so choose?
  4. What about exceptions for ugrad-level courses that are double-listed  with grad-level courses, e.g., BasketWeaving 4XXX/5XXX, TR 4:30-5:30.
  5. Are there overarching  arguments for keeping the 3-hour Free Zone? Should it be shortened?

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4 thoughts on “T3: The Free Zone

  1. If classes were allowed to migrate into the 4:30-7:30 free zone, it would prove a death knell for some musical ensembles which draw from the entire Cornell community. Only by preserving a band of time during which no academic classes are held can we hope to keep opportunities open for ALL Cornell students, regardless of year or college — and ensure our ensembles truly represent Cornell at its best.

    Forcing students to choose between classes or joining/continuing with an ensemble would significantly reduce the pool, and undermine the experience for all students involved. (Without certain leaders, for example, some repertoire is completely out of reach.) It would also diminish the quality of performance at Cornell’s major events (convocations, commencement, university memorial services, and so on) for which the Wind Symphony, Chorus, Glee Club, and occasionally Symphony Orchestra are frequently a central element.

    1. I agree that 4:30-7:30 free zone is crucially important to the viability of a significant number of musical ensembles, both those offered for credit by the music department and student-run ensembles. I imagine there are other activities that similarly bring together and benefit students from all across campus, offering important experiential learning experiences that complement regular course offerings. I hope that others involved in these ensembles and activities speak up in support of maintaining the free zone. At the very least, I believe we should NOT do away with it entirely, even if the range of acceptable activities was broadened.

      Christopher J. Miller
      Senior Lecturer in Music
      Director of Gamelan Ensemble and Steel Band

  2. I teach a large lab-oriented course in ECE. We need to schedule labs during evening hours because of intense scheduling of daytime hours. Many of our students are Masters of Engineering students who live off-campus. If we schedule labs into the 7:30pm to 10:30pm slot, then students leave lab after bus service stops. It not safe or reasonable to expect them to walk home. Both staff and students prefer the 4:30-7:30 slot.

  3. In part because of rules about the “Free Zone” and the requirement that courses be individually exempted on an exclusively temporary basis, faculty in my program have chosen not to continue a popular course that has students watch and critically review visiting lecturers on contemporary affairs. Because we wanted faculty, graduate students, and the rest of the Cornell community to come see the lectures, which were open to the public, we couldn’t use regular course hours; we found that having a course at 4:30 actually added flexibility to undergraduate schedules, and that many students were actively seeking late afternoon courses. Qualitatively, our feeling is that many more students were served by the option of taking a class in the afternoon than were frustrated by its presence in the “free zone.”

    I suggest that courses involving off-campus visitors or which include events that are open to the public (potentially including film screenings, performances, and other activities) be exempted on a one-time, permanent basis when they go through the EPC, and be marked as having afternoon requirements in the Courses of Study, so that students with conflicts can avoid enrolling.

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