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Students frustrated with professors' office hours

By Darleen Denno, Copy Chief

Exhausted, grumpy and frustrated, you take an hour off work and journey across campus to seek out a professor's help with a paper.  Yet when you arrive, the professor is nowhere to be found. No note, no e-mail, nothing—just a vacant office.

This is a hypothetical situation, but it happens every day.

After surveying 20 professors, randomly chosen from the University Bulletin, The Chronicle found that 40 percent did not attend their advertised office hours.

Kristina Viscariello, junior, normally attends her professors' office hours when an exam is approaching.   She said that whether or not professors meet their office hours depends on the professor. "Usually science professors are around and always meet their office hours," Viscariello said.

Some professors are loyal to their posted office hours, but Viscariello had the unfortunate experience of staring at a closed door, even the professors explicitly declared his office hours for that time. "It's happened numerous times," Viscariello said.

After having her hopes of meeting with a professor dashed, Viscariello e-mailed her professor about not attending the posted office hours. Viscariello said that the professors normally apologize and are willing schedule another meeting.

"I almost never hear a complaint in terms of a faculty member and their office hours," Provost Herman Berliner said.

The provost suggests that students who have a time-sensitive issue and can't get a hold of the professor should communicate through e-mail. "I think the most effective way of contacting a faculty member today is through e-mail," Provost Herman Berliner said.

Berliner advises students who are unsatisfied with a professor's attendance to report them to the department chair, dean or provost. "If there are issues, they need to be brought to our attention," said Berliner.

Using the Hofstra website to locate a professor's office has proved to be even more problematic than professors ditching their office hours. Students might find it frustrating to even locate these professors; 50 percent of the surveyed professors' office numbers were inaccurately posted on the Hofstra website. Professor Richard Curtiss said that his office information on the Hofstra website is outdated by more than 5 years.

Professor Ralph Acampora was one of the randomly chosen professors to survey. The Hofstra website stated that his office number was Heger 214. However, Heger 214 is now occupied by a different professor. After seeking help from the secretary on the second floor of Heger, Acampora's office was finally found in Heger 104. Acampora said that room 214 "was an office of mine for a while, but not since 2007 or so."

Professors and administrators agree that outdated and inaccurate information on the Hofstra website is a problem. "No, it should be accurate. I do see a problem with that. That's clearly not okay," said Berliner.

 "It's the department's responsibility to maintain their content," said Francis Rizzo, Executive Director, Design and Production.

Individual departments are in charge of updating office room numbers, phone numbers and faculty member information constantly. "We reach out to them on a semester by semester basis to remind them to take a look at their content," Rizzo said. "We also offer guide documentation and intro sessions to users identified by the departments on a regular basis, which are announced internally."

Students that are unable to locate a faculty member's office are advised to go to the department office to seek help.

Ultimately, students are responsible for the Hofstra experience they desire. "We're concerned and focused on student satisfaction and trying to make sure students have the best experience that they possibly can have," said Berliner.

Students can improve their experience by reporting inaccurate information on the Hofstra website and professors that poorly attend their office hours to the proper department chair, dean or provost. "If we're aware of an issue, we will work to address that issue and make sure it's addressed," said Berliner.

(Michaela Papa/The Chronicle)

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