Law class proves guilty of being over-enrolled

By Dan Kimerling

“This is a good university, and I am just really surprised they could let this happen,” said second-year in the College Eric Boyko, upon being told this month that he could not take a class, Legal Reasoning (LLSO 24200), despite having been registered for it since last spring quarter. In an e-mail sent by Susan Art, Dean of Students, notifying students of the registrar office’s mistake, she urged the students to “to think creatively about the many interesting courses taught in the University and choose a substitute that will engage you.”

Thomas Black, the University’s registrar, and Dean Art said that they did not learn of the error until the mid-September. They noted that the class had 93 students registered, but the cap was supposed to be set at 48 students. “We made a plan to remove students from the course to bring the enrollment down to 48,” Art said. “I instructed the registrar to remove the five upper class students who were ineligible since they were not second-years, 29 students who had registered after the eighth week bidding period and 11 students (randomly selected) who had bid on the course last spring and had been resolved into the course.”

No matter how creatively students think about what classes they should take instead, keeping students like Boyko from taking Legal Reasoning in their second-year does not only effect their fall quarter, but the rest of their college career. Legal Reasoning—the required first course for the Law, Letters, and Society concentration—is only offered to concentrators in the fall of their second year.

According to Dean Art, affected students “should plan to meet with your adviser soon to discuss other majors that will fit your interests. Political science, public policy and history are good choices. In fact, a number of the course offerings that are listed under Law, Letters and Society are cross-listed with courses in these departments. In addition, these fields offer interesting disciplinary perspectives that would be missing in the more interdisciplinary Law, Letters and Society.” However, one of the possible reasons for the over-enrollment in Legal Reasoning is that this quarter the University is only offering eight political science courses, and of those, only two are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“Every year lots and lots of students from undergraduate majors that are not political science, or history, or law, get in to law school and become good lawyers,” said Louis Tremante, the University’s pre-law advisor, in an e-mail to students who were dropped from the class.

Additionally, the concentration chair, Dennis Hutchinson, is the only professor who teaches the course. To complicate matters this year, Legal Reasoning is only being offered once, in the autumn, while last year it was offered in both autumn and winter quarters. One frustrated student not admitted to the course said that it was the “equivalent of telling a pre-med student that they could not take organic chemistry.”

As first-year Alex Learner said, “One of the primary reasons I came to the University of Chicago was because of the Law, Letters, and Society major.” She now wonders if she will be able to enroll in next year’s class.