University of Michigan
News for Faculty and Staff

March 25, 2018

University updating start, end times for classes

February 19, 2018

University updating start, end times for classes

Topic: Campus News

Time is running out on the decades-old tradition of beginning classes well after the designated start time.

So-called "Michigan time" — the practice of starting classes, meetings and events 10 minutes after the designated start time to allow for travel time across campus — will end May 1 at the start of the spring semester.

Provost Martin Philbert cites the need for consistency among all schools and colleges. Presently, some schools and colleges operate on "Michigan time" and others do not.

"Currently, there is no uniform time around campus and start times vary among all schools and colleges," Philbert says. "The change comes as we have seen an ever-growing need to have students take interdisciplinary classes, and to utilize classrooms and other spaces to their fullest extent."

The change also will ensure consistency among the Ann Arbor community. The Ann Arbor campus now will be in sync with off-campus activities, including athletic events, meetings, transportation schedules and for students who hold jobs.

This will be accomplished without any change in the time devoted to classes or to transition between classes. The 10-minute transition time will move before the hour instead of after the hour.

"The adjustment to start times will allow for increased collaboration and more classes to be taken by all students. University meetings operate on the hour and this will facilitate faculty and student participation," Philbert says.

The majority of students will see the change for the fall term.

University officials note that many units are on "clock time" for faculty and staff meetings and "Michigan time" for classes, which causes confusion and friction.

At some point in the late afternoon or early evening, almost everyone switches over to "clock time." Classrooms are used for public events and visiting lectures, and the public does not use "Michigan time."

Changing to "clock time" will provide benefits to all of campus, especially students, enabling them to conveniently take classes offered by all schools and colleges, officials say.

Officials also note the benefits to faculty, who could teach and have travel time sufficient to attend events — administration, academic and social — across campus. It will reduce the number of classrooms needed to accommodate the curriculum, saving money and reducing the environmental footprint of the university.

The concept of "Michigan time" was first documented in 1930 when President Alexander G. Ruthven asked the deans to establish a uniform time for dismissing and opening classes.

The minutes of a meeting of the deans noted, "In opening class exercises, a reasonable interval should be allowed for students to come from the preceding class. It is therefore recommended, in the interest of uniformity, that instructors shall not begin the formal work of the course (e.g., marking absences or starting a written exercise) until ten minutes after the hour, unless the entire class is present before that time."

According to The Michigan Daily, in a note to summer session faculty in 1932, LSA Dean Edward H. Kraus wrote, "in order to avoid confusion in connection with the beginning and dismissing of classes it is urged that class periods not begin until about eight minutes after the hour. Classes should close promptly on the hour. Students need eight to ten minutes to pass from one building to another, especially if the buildings are located on opposite sides of campus."

Well before administrators took action, students complained about confusing start times.

"It might be a good idea if the University professors came to an understanding with each other as to whether classes begin at ten minutes after the hour and stop on the hour, or whether they begin on the hour and stop at ten minutes to the hour," the Daily wrote in 1922. "Meanwhile, the students will continue to come unavoidably late in a number of cases."


David Frye
on 2/19/18 at 8:33 am

As the campus continues to expand, I wonder whether the 10 minutes established nearly a century ago is really enough time to leave between classes. It takes a good 15 minutes under the best circumstances to walk from East Quad to North Quad, for instance.

Terence Martin
on 2/19/18 at 10:28 am

Really? I had a semester when I had to go from the Frieze Building (where North Quad is now) to the Business school in 10 minutes. I hustled my butt, but was never late.

Saini Kethireddy
on 2/19/18 at 11:24 am

I am a freshman now and find myself able to get from Ross to North quad within 10 minutes. Although it is very close to 10 minutes, it is not impossible. North campus of course is a different story.

Josephine Oren
on 2/19/18 at 9:17 am

I know that many professors already struggle with ending on the hour or half hour and often try to go over their time limits. I think that students will definitely suffer implementation issues for a period of time as professors refuse to end 10 minutes before the hour/half hour, since Michigan time has always been a bit 'unofficially official'. I would also like to hear more opinions of both faculty and students.

Nathan Carrillo
on 2/19/18 at 10:20 am

I agree, many professors already can't stop right on the hour, and I highly doubt they will end right at 50 minutes after the hour

Miles Luo
on 2/19/18 at 12:02 pm

Use classical conditioning! If the end time for a class has arrived, just leave. Hopefully your classmates will do the same thing, and your professors really can't complain. If you stay in class, I think you're just encouraging the professor to continue running over for future lectures. As GSI, I made sure I was done by the class end time (i respect other people's time!).

Having gone to another school for undergrad, we had our classes ending at "strange" times like 9:55, 12:05, 1:10, 2:15, 3:20, etc. Perhaps it was institutionalized, but people have no problem observing those times. If students have classes one after the other, they leave when they have to (and we had a sprawled out campus, so yes, the 15 minute travel times were necessary). I agree that it might take people some getting used to, but let's face it - you're at a well-regarded university, so if people need more than, idk, 2 weeks to get used to it, that would indicative of other problems.

I've talked to other grad students about the whole concept of Michigan time. With almost all of us having gone to other schools, we generally thought it was nonsense.

Nathan Carrillo
on 2/19/18 at 1:20 pm

Again, just because other universities do something one way, it doesn't make it better. While I can appreciate that the students at Michigan are capable of learning and adhering to a schedule that makes as little sense as "9:55, 12:05, 1:10, 2:15, 3:20, etc", just like... why?

I also think you would find that most undergraduate students do like this time, and because they have not gone to other universities, they are not biased against this system (they become biased towards the system :P )

Miles Luo
on 2/19/18 at 2:21 pm

Hah, I think the "why?" is pretty well answered in the article... And those are clear-cut reasons why it is better and why change is necessary.

The example of my undergrad experience was more to show that professors and students can handle unusual times, since for some reason, this appears to be a concern. Also, we had 15 minute gap times because our campus was geographically spread out, so 10 minutes was not enough time to get between classes. Obviously, those 5 minutes added up throughout the day.

Again, I see no benefit to Michigan time, nor why anybody likes it. Aside from getting rid of a ton of confusion and ambiguity, there will be no practical difference with this change. The benefits WAY outweigh the costs ("undergrads like it" appears to be the only thing going for it).

As for your prediction in another comment: If students keep showing up late - and people were showing up late to Michigan time'd classes too -, that's their own fault and they're responsible for whatever they missed. Professors won't be clamoring to re-instate unofficial delays because a few students don't know how to show up on time.

Nathan Carrillo
on 2/19/18 at 2:50 pm

The "why" was directed to your schedule of times, not the article. I understand that the University is trying to unify the times around campus, and make the start and end times more clear. I agree that the times should be clarified, but it seems counter intuitive to change what has been the norm (here at least) for 80+ years. I was enrolled in two different colleges at the university, and I never had a problem scheduling classes in SMTD and LSA with Michigan time, and I held a job through out my undergrad.

The fact that you so quickly disregard the undergrad experience is representative of so many in the administration at this University. Admins say they care about the undergraduates and their experience, in fact it's even in the LSA mission statement. However, in my opinion, these are just words that are said and rarely backed up by actions. The undergrads make up the bulk of the student body, yet are the first to have their opinions cast away.

154 people have already signed a petition to keep Michigan Time in less than 3 hours. The decision making should have included undergraduates, or at least the LSA student government, and from reading the article it's clear that they were not.

Miles Luo
on 2/19/18 at 3:11 pm

How else would you clarify times? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think removing Michigan time is the simplest way to answer "What time is my class?".

I have really fond memories of my undergrad experience, so I recognize its importance, but I seriously question whether I am really disregarding/minimizing the undergraduate experience by supporting a change that makes no practical changes to a student's daily life.
When you ask a UM alum about the most noteworthy experiences of their undergraduate careers, I doubt many of them would answer "I got to show to up to class 10 minutes later than published!"

I'll give you that the process should have brought in the undergrads, but I still have not seen any argument that would change my thoughts on the end decision (including "that's the way it's always been done")

Nathan Carrillo
on 2/19/18 at 3:21 pm

I think just stating that the start time is 1:10 and the end time is 2:00 would clarify the times. Currently classes are scheduled 1:00 - 2:00, but the class just starts at 1:10 due to Michigan Time.

"a change that makes no practical changes to a student's daily life" - except it does make a change to their life. I think you just demonstrated with that statement that you are disregarding and minimizing the undergraduates experience. As a student, I would plan to show up at my 10:00 class at 10:00, but if I ran a few minutes late, I had a nice buffer of 10 minutes. It was nice to have, and it is absolutely something that my friends and I joked about and look back on fondly. Was it absolutely necessary for me to function in college? No... but it was nice and it was definitely something I, and many of my friends on campus, enjoyed. There is a reason it even developed it's own nickname "Michigan Time". I doubt many of them would have answered "I got to show up to class 10 minutes later than published!" but I would answer, "Michigan Time!"

Miles Luo
on 2/19/18 at 3:39 pm

But see, you knew it actually started at 10:10!!! When you tell yourself to show up at 10:00, that's you giving yourself that buffer!

Ok, fine, maybe 10:10-11:00 is better than 10:00-10:50, but that's simply scheduling. Michigan Time would still be kaput, things would be crystal clear, and I would be satisfied. Maybe we're disagreeing about the definition of "Michigan Time"? I don't really care when on the hour classes end/start. I simply don't like telling people something starts at time XX:XX when that's not what happens in reality.

Nathan Carrillo
on 2/19/18 at 4:03 pm

True, I was definitely giving myself that buffer. But I don't think that buffer would have been as easy to do if the class started at 10:00, and I had to tell myself to arrive at 9:50.

To me, Michigan Time was the class starting 10 after the hour, not the class actually starting 10 minutes after the posted time. I completely agree with you that it's confusing and times posted should accurate. To clarify, what bothers me is shifting the scheduling forward by 10 minutes, not ending the whole, "when does this class really start?"

Miles Luo
on 2/19/18 at 4:06 pm

So we've been in agreement this whole time?? Damn.

Nathan Carrillo
on 2/19/18 at 4:20 pm

Looks like it!

Hafiz Sheriff
on 2/19/18 at 10:11 am

Isn't it easier to get a professor to start his/her class later than to end it sooner?

Nathan Carrillo
on 2/19/18 at 10:17 am

I second this

Annareli Morales
on 2/19/18 at 10:20 am

But it's the same amount of time, 50 minutes. I never understood how it's "easier" to start late in order to end on the hour.

Nathan Carrillo
on 2/19/18 at 10:38 am

You're correct, it's the same 50 minutes of instructional time, but the start / stop time does matter. It's easier to start a class, than it is to end a class. When starting a class, you can just begin. But ending a class well involves a conclusion, summary, and generally wrapping up ones thoughts. Professors can sometimes lose track of time, and then run over their allotted time when trying to wrap up their thoughts.

You made another comment about running the classes on "real world" time. And I agree, formalizing Michigan time makes sense. But why not just formalize the timing to what is currently being done? How is 1:10 - 2:00 not "real world" time, but 1:00 - 1:50 is?

Annareli Morales
on 2/19/18 at 11:12 am

I guess I never noticed the assigned time slot is actually 1:00-2:00. Then yes, the school should designate the time to either be 1:10-2:00 or 1:00-1:50. I understand this tradition of Michigan time, but coming in as a grad student after taking classes for 6 years in other institutions where we start on time and end on time given a 50 min slot, this was very confusing. I was never told about this, so I was 15 min early to my first class. It was also troublesome when trying to coordinate meetings with collaborators not in the University.

I still believe it's the responsibility of the professors to end within the time they are given. If they lose track of their time, then they should practice or just reduce the amount of slides for a given day. I've taught a number of times and made sure to have sufficient slides to fill my allotted time.

Nathan Carrillo
on 2/19/18 at 11:25 am

I've never had a GSI at Michigan run over, it's always professors haha. But I'm sure your students appreciate your timeliness!

Annareli Morales
on 2/19/18 at 10:14 am

Thank you! This was one of the most frustrating things...every other school I've been to uses "clock time". The real world runs on "clock time".

Nathan Carrillo
on 2/19/18 at 10:16 am

As a former student (graduated in 2017), I think this is a terrible idea. Many of my professors wouldn't end class right on the hour, because they just had to finish reading that last slide... now they expect professors to end 10 minutes early?? Has the administration of this school become so out of touch with what is going on in the classroom that they actually think this will work? My prediction: more students will be late to class, more professors will be frustrated, and after a year they'll change it back.

It's not the formalization of "Michigan Time" that is the problem; I think that's a great idea. It's moving the 10 minute delay from the start to the end that is the problem. From my perspective as a student, Michigan Time was great and it seemed to work very well. There's a reason for the adage, "Don't break what isn't broken".

Annareli Morales
on 2/19/18 at 10:26 am

Why is it a "delay" in time? Classes are 50 min long. I have never understood this need to start late. I have attended 2 other universities and they all start class on time and end 50 min later. It's the professors responsibility to end their lecture at the designated time so as to respect their fellow instructors and the students. If the professor feels the need to go past the time, this is a professor-specific issue, and the entire university does not need to change because professors can't finish within 50 min.

Nathan Carrillo
on 2/19/18 at 10:46 am

It's a delay in time, because technically the times are posted online as 1:00 - 2:00, even though the class actually starts at 1:10, which is why I called it a delay. If the class times were posted as 1:10 - 2:00, then I wouldn't call it a delay. As a student I really appreciated the 10 minute delay. (And as a graduate with a full time job, it has absolutely not hampered my ability to arrive on time in the 'real world')

Just because other universities do something one way, doesn't mean it's actually a good / the best way to do something. It also is not really a professor specific issue, as well more than half of my professors would try to run past the hour, especially in big lectures. It's not something that can be address professor by professor since so many of them seem to do it.

This university has its own unique culture. Michigan Time is (was?) a part of that culture. I guess it's time for Michigan to assimilate into the blandness of all the other universities out there. :(

Miles Luo
on 2/19/18 at 11:10 am

Sounds like class times are going to be posted as 1:00-1:50. If that is the case, classes end at 1:50 and everyone is responsible for knowing that. It's no different than if a class ended at 2:00, but not there's no ambiguity whether a student needs to arrive at 1:00 or 1:10. If a professor is going to run over, do what I did (and what I think any sensible student would do), and leave at 1:50 whether the professor is done or not. That gives you your ten minutes to get to your next class - you don't need some artificial delay.

This is undeniably a better way to handle time. Why introduce uncertainty and potential confusion when it is 100% unnecessary? Professors running over 50 minutes is a completely different issue. I don't understand how changing the time from (1:00+0:10)-2:00 to 1;00-1:50 is going to make this worse.

Of course U of M has its own unique culture. IMO, this has long been a stupid part of this culture. It's not like getting rid of this is going to ruin the identity of the university. If encouraging people to be 10 minutes late to certain events of their daily lives is what U of M needed to keep from being bland, then we've got other problems. There are concrete and justifiable reasons to make this change and I applaud this decision.

Nathan Carrillo
on 2/19/18 at 11:22 am

I think you would find most students disagree with you, but I will let other students speak for themselves.

Alexander Atkinson
on 2/19/18 at 1:38 pm

I agree with Miles

Nathan Carrillo
on 2/19/18 at 1:46 pm

Just for transparency, what is your affiliation with the University? Student, alum, faculty / staff etc.?

Nathan Carrillo
on 2/19/18 at 4:27 pm

Careful, you might just prove how few are actually on your side ;-) GLHF!

Laura Willard
on 2/19/18 at 10:46 pm

Excellent idea as it is best in life to be timely... some areas of the nation and some personality types value this immensely. Interdisciplinary coordination is very important. Any big shift like this is done wisely with much advance notice to all participants to enable accommodations and buy in. Well done. From an Alum

Audelia Wittbrodt
on 2/20/18 at 12:56 pm

Michigan Time is the single best psychological tool for getting students to class on time (10 min after posted time), and getting professors to end class on time (on the hour). The fact of the matter is that humans have a difficult time being "on time", and negative reinforcement makes little difference. Michigan Time accommodates the human psyche to provide the best education experience possible.

An easy solution for those frustrated with confusion would be to schedule times with Michigan Time (MT) or Clock Time (CT). "Meeting at 4:00 CT."

Getting rid of Michigan Time will result in increase tardiness (due to natural tendency of human time mismanagement), increased interruptions because of tardiness, classes ending late (because ending at 10 minutes till is psychologically difficult), which will then result in additional tardiness for the next class. This puts undue strain on students and teachers. The purpose of the University is to educate, not to make life difficult.

Matt Blank
on 2/20/18 at 2:23 pm

As a staff member who has scheduled classes (and other meetings) at the university for the past 15+ years, I agree with this 100%. That ten minutes can make a big difference to a lot of people. In theory, moving these ten minutes to the end of class should have the same result. In practice, however, it is very difficult to change human nature.
I understand Michigan time might seem antiquated and counter-intuitive to the outside world, but I will miss it.

Ozlem Karuc
on 2/21/18 at 1:14 pm

10 minutes between classes is not enough time to (in addition to walking to the next classroom) also get refreshed, maybe get a cup of coffee, or snack in between; refresh brain before taking in hours of new information; take a look at notes from last class or the reading of upcoming class to mentally prepare for class; ect. 10 minutes may work for Highschool but aren't adequate for a university setting at all. This is my opinion and if we are making a change now, then why not expand the break in between classes to at least 20 minutes?

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