NEWS

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January 13, 2004

Students face overflowing classrooms

When Josh Motta, a second-year in the College, went to his Introduction to Chinese Politics class last Tuesday morning at Cobb 203, he found a group of people standing in the hallway. As it turned out, they were also students in his class who were not able to fit in the classroom.

"When I arrived, you couldn't get through the door," Motta said, describing his first day of that class. "The teacher was trying to get everyone to move in and sit on the floor. People were waiting outside in the hallway trying to listen to the teacher."

The instructor for the class, Dali Yang, has since petitioned to move his class to a bigger room. But for Motta, that was not the only overfilled class of the day. His Power, Identity, and Resistance social science class was also overcrowded, forcing some students to switch to another section.

A second-year Classics concentrator, who wished not to be identified, said he registered for his section last quarter during the bidding period. But on the second day of class, the lecturer stated that the registrar noticed a discrepancy between the number of students in that section, which had 22 students, and another Classics section, which had 6 students.

The second-year and six other people were then asked to transfer to another section to balance out the number of students.

"It's ridiculous," the second-year said. "I'm glad that this did not mess up my schedule at large, but it's still an inconvenience."

These stories represent the experiences of many students on campus last week: frustrated and confused by overcrowded classes, juggling pink registrar slips through the Registrar's Office and visiting the new cMore site daily to obtain their desired schedules.

Many of the overcrowded classes are sections of Core classes—humanities, mathematics, or art history—to which students are attracted by the professors' reputations, such as Jonathan Lear's and Bertram Cohler's.

Perennial political science favorite John Mearsheimer is currently teaching his class, "American Grand Strategy," to 149 students, in a room with a capacity of 150 people.

Carolyn Dang, a second-year international relations concentrator in the College, described her first day in Bernard Silberman's class, "To Hell with the Enlightenment," as overpopulated.

"I was sitting in the front row," Dang said. "There were at least 30 people on the floor. It was really too crowded to learn."

Andrew Hannah, the senior associate registrar for the University, said that no specific problems have occurred this quarter with the introduction of the new add/drop website.

"Most College courses have numeric limits through the end of the first week of each quarter, limits that are set specifically by the departments offering the course," Hannah said. "In those cases where no limits are specified, the Registrar's office monitors enrollments, comparing them to the listed capacities of the respective classrooms.  In the latter case, if enrollment meets or exceeds the classroom capacity we immediately suspend open registration."

Hannah also said that with some classes, fourth-year students are given preference because of their imminent graduation.

"After receiving course preferences from College students during eighth week, course enrollment is based on a combination of the ranking a student gave a particular course and the student's year of study, with priority first going to fourth-years, then third years, etc." Hannah said. "This preference was insisted upon by student focus groups when the registration system was being implemented."

Jean Treese, an associate dean of students in the College, said that students usually take complaints to the Office of the Dean of Students. She has not received any substantial complaints.

"We haven't even had the average number of complaints about scheduling this year," Treese said. "We did have a problem with Economics 201 where one of the sections was too large to accommodate the room, but we did eventually break that section into two."

However, some students are still displeased with the enrollment of classes. Motta expected a significant student-to-teacher ratio for a University of this caliber.

"I am upset by the fact we are investing a substantial amount of money to go to this university, and yet are subjected to such large classrooms in small spaces

that do not facilitate the educational mission of the University," Motta said, adding that the University markets the fact that there is a 4:1 student to faculty ratio. "As current students, and for prospective students, we expect a small student to teacher ratio."