Physics professor Elliot Lipeles teaches a course on Fridays at 10 a.m. But during Spring Fling each year, he knows to expect less than perfect student attendance.
Lipeles is one of several Penn professors who adjust their course schedules so students can enjoy Fling and also make the most of their last few classes of the year. This Friday, he will be doing an optional “fun lecture” that is an extension of the coursework in his combined section of Physics 141 and 151.
“I decided to do something where it would still be an interesting lecture relevant to the class but not something that everybody needed to know,” Lipeles said. “If people didn’t come, it wouldn’t be confusing or set things back.”
He plans to focus his lecture on electromagnetism and relativity, a topic that is “a little bit beyond the scope of the class.” Lipeles has learned from past experience that holding a regular class during Fling is not the best idea.
“In the past, I’ve shown up with a lesson plan and there are very few people there — maybe a third of the class,” he said.
He began making a different Fling lesson plan three or four years ago after he noticed this trend.
“After a couple years I realized I should probably look up when Fling is happening and do something about it,” Lipeles said.
For several years Lipeles, like many professors, was not aware of the existence of Spring Fling.
“When I first started teaching, I didn’t know what Spring Fling was until I started noticing that no one showed up to class on a certain day,” he said. “They don’t tell you this when you’re faculty, so you have to figure it out.”
Like Lipeles, math professor Nakia Rimmer made adjustments to his Math 170 exam schedule to accommodate for Fling. After realizing that Fling was this weekend when he was creating his syllabus, he moved an exam that was originally scheduled for next Monday to April 19.
Roughly five years ago, he began noticing poor performance on exams on a certain day — the Monday after Fling. He said that the exam average was always particularly low. He now tries to strategically place exams to avoid such an anomaly.
Rimmer said this was a difficult exam to schedule as it is sandwiched between several holidays and the end of the semester.
“It’s tough with the late holidays — both Easter and Passover,” he said. “You want to be able to grade the exams and get them back before the end of the semester on Wednesday.”
Rimmer’s class this Friday will switch into final exam review mode — it will be optional for students, but he said that it would be beneficial to those who attend.
History professor Ann Farnsworth-Alvear also moved a paper due date back by two days, describing Fling as “distracting” to students.
“I look at the Fling dates every year as part of trying to remind myself of the social context in which students are embedded,” she said.