Worries persist that lack of classes on Day 5 boosts drinking on Day 4

Kansas University seniors, from left, Reilly Pharo, of Golden, Colo., Katie Skogsbergh, of Chicago, Brittani Johnson, of Denver, and Jessica Gerrick, of Fort Worth, Texas, celebrate Skogsbergh's birthday with other friends on a Thursday at the Sandbar on East Eighth Street. Thursdays are a popular day for students to visit bars, especially for those who don't have Friday classes.

When classes are offered at KU

Fewer classes are offered on Fridays than on any other day during the week, except the few offered on Saturdays. Below is a list of the number of class hours each day during the week.

Monday: 2,040

Tuesday: 2,279

Wednesday: 2,195

Thursday: 2,271

Friday: 1,441

Saturday: 49

At several bars in town, the best drink specials aren’t confined to Friday and Saturday.

They start Thursday.

Walk through the Kansas University campus on a Friday and you’ll quickly realize why.

“Thursdays are the new Fridays,” said Keegan Miller, a KU senior.

“I have class at 11 tomorrow, and that’s pushing it,” he said last Thursday night.

That attitude, the U.S. Surgeon General said in a report issued earlier this year, is in large part the fault of colleges and universities that don’t schedule classes on Fridays. A recent study from the University of Missouri backs up that claim.

But at the University of Iowa, as well as at smaller schools along the eastern seaboard, university administrators are trying to take back Fridays with more mandatory classes being offered. And at KU, a group of faculty, staff and students will begin meeting soon to discuss the surgeon general’s report, the MU study and what KU can do to get a handle on what many faculty and staff believe is an increasing amount of student drinking.

Avoid Friday classes

“You try to schedule away from Friday classes,” said KU senior Kyle Weinstein as he walked out of Quinton’s last week. “When you do have them, you schedule them as late as possible. I had a Friday class one semester, and I didn’t go to it once.”

But at KU, like almost every school, avoiding Friday classes is actually pretty easy.

Friday classes are far less frequent than classes other days during the week. Of the 10,275 classes offered this semester, only 1,441 meet on Friday.

By comparison, 2,040 classes meet on Monday and 2,279 meet on Tuesday, which is the most popular day for classes.

“There no easy answer (for how classes are scheduled),” KU spokeswoman Jill Jess said. “Faculty preference is taken into consideration. Individual departments make requests, and then the registrar’s office accommodates those requests based on available classrooms. If it doesn’t work, they make alternative suggestions.”

It’s not just students who are often eager to stay out of the classroom on Fridays. Faculty often use Fridays for meetings or to conduct research, Jess said.

Study: Friday class means less drinking

Phil Wood, professor of quantitative psychology at MU, has been teaching classes for nearly 20 years. Over time, he’s noticed that attendance in his Friday classes is not what it is during the rest of the week.

So he decided to conduct a study and see how much – and when – students at MU were drinking. According to his research, students with Friday morning classes were dramatically less likely to binge drink, or drink at all, on Thursday nights. And he said there didn’t seem to be a make-up factor during the rest of the weekend.

“It’s pretty surprising how effective it is in terms of interventions to reduce college drinking,” Wood said. “It’s not a magic pill. If people have a Friday class and at least one drink Thursday night, there’s still a one-in-two chance that they’ll binge drink. But that’s down from two-in-three who (binge drink and) don’t have a Friday class.”

Recently, Wood said, MU administrators have talked about incentive pay for faculty who offer Friday classes.

While it’s only talk, Wood says it seems a backdoor way for MU to, based on his research, get more students in Friday classes.

Wood wants to validate his research by studying students at the University of Iowa as it increases the number of Friday morning classes. He said this would be a way to determine if Friday classes can work as an intervention – or a way to curtail student drinking – rather than just an interesting correlation.

Iowa dives in

The University of Iowa is the first large university to buy into Wood’s data so much that starting in fall 2008, more classes will be offered on Fridays.

“We’ve thought about it for quite awhile,” said Iowa Vice Provost Tom Rocklin. “(What) pushed us to action was the study out of the University of Missouri this summer. We want to send the message that being a student is a serious matter.”

Rocklin said so far, faculty and students seem to be accepting of the idea of more Friday classes. This semester, Iowa is trying to build a schedule that increases the number of classes on Fridays, while accommodating students who need to have jobs and faculty who need time for research.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “When you make a schedule, you usually start with last fall’s schedule and tinker with it. Real change is hard. It’s going to take a lot of work.”

But Rocklin is convinced it’s worth it. And that’s not to say every professor will teach Fridays, or that all students will take a class at 9 a.m. Friday.

“We’re looking especially at classes that come early in people’s careers and classes that are required,” Rocklin said. “We’re also looking at popular classes – classes that make sense.”

Wood’s study recommended many freshman classes be offered on Fridays because students establish routines, particularly as they relate to drinking, early in their college careers.

At KU, study begins soon

The MU study and surgeon general’s report have not gone unnoticed at KU. In fact, Lori Reesor, associate vice provost of student success, will convene a group of faculty, staff and students to examine the issue of alcohol in the KU community.

“We know alcohol continues to be an issue on college campuses,” Reesor said. “We have a group of a dozen colleagues who are looking at KU practices and then will be looking at best practices across the country.

“We will be reviewing the MU report and the Iowa decision and deciding whether it has an impact on our students.”

Reesor said more Friday classes could be a factor in reducing student drinking.

“This is a national issue,” Reesor said. “It’s the topic of many, many conferences and workshops. I feel like I get information weekly on what institutions are doing.”

Reesor said she gets the impression that students are coming to college now having chosen to drink at a younger age. While she says KU can’t fix this societal problem, she says the university has a responsibility to deal with behaviors that manifest themselves on campus.

“We need to deal with the students, the behaviors and the values they have when they come to college,” she said. “Otherwise, they take those values with them when they go into the work force.”