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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?

1 Answer 1

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.