Committee to assess Core arts scarcity

According to administrators, arts courses face “logistical” challenges, including space and faculty shortages.

By Jonah Rabb

Student frustration over the difficulty of registering for Core art classes has caused the art departments to consider changes to the courses currently offered.

In response to student complaints, Associate Dean and Master of the Humanities Collegiate Division Thomas Christensen is currently forming a committee to meet with the art departments in order to reexamine the kinds of Core courses they offer and their class size caps. The committee will also examine the “philosophy” of the art Core, its consistency with various disciplines, and the classes’ goals within the Core as a whole.

While noting that there are courses that fulfill the art requirement that are not in high demand, Christensen admits that registering for Core art, music, and drama can be very difficult, mostly due to the extreme popularity of the courses.

“It’s hard to predict year by year where the pressure is going to be,” Christensen said. “We look at where the pressure is and try to change the number of sections. We never promise that we’re going to meet the demand of students.”

Second-year Alexa Karczmar expressed frustration at how competitive it is to get into a creative writing course. After not being placed in either Introduction to Genres: Four Western Myths or The American City in Literature: Past, Present, Future, and Fantasy through regular registration this spring, she decided not to try to pink slip into the class since dozens of other students were already on the class waitlist.

“If I want to register for a creative writing class because I think it would be beneficial to my education, it shouldn’t be an arms race to do so,” she said.

First-year Noah Christians suggested that an expansion of the introductory- level art classes would help mitigate the competition to get into a particular course.

“I realize there are a lot of students who need to take the class, but I’d still like to get in. There are so few options for the visual arts at an introductory level,” he said in a Facebook message to the Maroon.

Finding funding to increase the number of art sections is not an issue, according to Dean of Students Susan Art. Instead, she identified “logistical” struggles, such as the need for sufficient space and qualified faculty, which affect students’ access to art classes.

“We’ve been very aware of this situation. We’ve done research into the bidding process. Dean Boyer understands students’ preferences, given the kind of problems we’re facing, but it’s going to be hard,” she said.

Christensen said that the Division of the Humanities, which encompasses the art departments, has already taken several steps to increase availability to Core art classes. He noted that the number of sections offered each year have increased consistently during his time as Master of the Division of the Humanities.

“We try to increase it so it meets the demands of our best estimates of previous enrollment histories,” Christensen said.

Assistant Dean of Students Colbey Harris also noted several changes that have been made in order to increase access to Core art classes. History and Theory of Drama, a course with a relatively large capacity, was introduced recently, and Harper-Schmidt Fellows have been employed to teach extra sections of art, music, and drama.

“There are unfilled seats in [art, music, and drama] Core classes every quarter. Students can’t always get their first choice class, but the same can be said of popular classes outside of [art, music, and drama] Core as well,” she said.

Harris encourages students to apply for Core art classes during their first two years, as first and second-years have priority over upperclassmen for Core classes.

Despite all of the changes, Harris indicates that they have no plans to loosen the current requirements.

“I don’t think Chicago students are here to find easier ways to fulfill curricular requirements. Anyone who finds him [or] herself in that frame of mind is missing the boat.”