Academic departments across campus are expressing concerns about section offerings as registration largely comes to an end, excluding incoming first-year students.
In an email that was sent by the academic deans in January 2023 stating, “Our college-wide curriculum reduction target is to trim a minimum of 100 course sections from the schedule by next year. This is approximately a 21.5% reduction of sections from a baseline year of 2020/2021.”
Some departments are facing issues with making sure students are able to get into the courses they need. Art and Design department chair Jonathan Gitelson said, “We have students who can’t get into classes they need and I’ve had to tell them, ‘I’m sorry we’re already [full].’”
Art and Design offered 40 course sections in the spring 2023 semester, but will be offering 32 sections in the fall 2024 semester, according toan email sent to The Equinox from Gitelson.
Gitelson said the Art and Design department is in a “unique” position, as having over-enrolled courses could be hazardous because it poses dangers in terms of chemicals and equipment being used.
There are also issues with not having enough equipment for students if courses are over-enrolled, Gitelson said. In the design portion of the major where students would require computers, the department needs to make sure there are enough computers for each student. “Some students will have to use their laptops and it’s just not ideal,” Gitelson said.
He added that he hopes it is not a long term situation. “If this is a long term thing, can we offer ISP (integrative study program) anymore?”
Art and Design is also attempting to adjust to the available supply of faculty, which has decreased over the past five years. Gitelson recalled back in 2017 that the department had 13 full-time faculty. They now have five. The department currently has 157 declared majors.
“We’re spread so thin,” Gitelson said.
Gitelson also mentioned that the department is growing and, with the loss of classes, it becomes difficult. Recently, the department has been going through curriculum changes to accommodate for the reduction in full-time faculty.
The previous curriculum was based on having the resources to run the department, but now it is a different department, Gitelson said.
“I think that the way things are, it’s a lot of band-aids,” said Gitelson.
The Art and Design department is not the only department facing problems regarding staffing and course selection.
Dr. Emily Robins Sharpe, English department chair, said, “Our department was compelled to cut quite a few classes and unfortunately the places were around some of the intro level courses.”
With around 100 majors and six faculty total, according to Sharpe, she said she would love to have more faculty to be able to teach courses.
“We’re doing the best we can to cover those classes, but I think that it would be really wonderful to offer more classes and have additional staff there.”
She expressed that her department lacks the staffing for creative writing and American literature, more specifically African American literature and Indigenous literature. However, she said she is not noticing students not being able to get into courses that they need. She added they are quite flexible.
The history department, however, is on the edge. “If we lose any more sections, I worry about students not getting what they need,” Dr. Graham Warder said.
He said the department had to cut two sections of world history taught by an adjunct, but mentioned that he did not feel as bad because the professor had a full-time job outside of teaching.
He said compared to other departments, the history department is not all that bad.
“I don’t have any huge complaints as far as history goes, but I am worried about the college, especially the students,” Warder said.
“It’s close you know, we’ve over enrolled to make sure students get what they need,” he added.
He said he has also had to sign many forms to get students into courses that are already full as well. Warder said the department recently hit 100 majors, but with five full-time faculty and now one adjunct going into the fall semester, he said, “If we lose anyone else it would be hard to deliver our program.”
The Environmental Studies, Geography, and Sustainability department chair Dr. Sasha Davis said he did not see many problems regarding students getting into the courses they need or having overfilled classes. However, he said he thinks it’s because they have raised the amount of students enrolled in their courses.
Davis provided the example that a course he taught in the fall 2022 semester had a cap of 30 students, and the cap has now been raised to 70 students. Whether it fills, he is no sure. He said it was done to keep other courses at a lower cap, to maintain the intimacy and to better allow students to learn during hands-on and field work experiences.
He said that campus-wide, they were asked to reduce courses, but asked to keep the same amount of seats. “Overall, I think we are getting people into the classes they need,” Davis said.
The department has a “ballpark” number of 70 majors with currently one full-time faculty and a slew of adjuncts that allow for the department to operate properly. However, he said they were able to hire two more full-time faculty to come in the fall.
If anything, the department has the ability to teach more courses, Davis said.
Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs James Beeby clarified that the amount of course section reductions would actually account for around 10% campus-wide.
“We noticed that a number of the courses that were being delivered prior to this academic year, many of those classes had low enrollment…and we wanted to have a more manageable schedule, so students could get the classes they need,” Beeby said.
He and others said they raised the question of how the can offer a sustainable amount of courses.
He added that they won’t be cutting courses that students need.
“We have to be intentional about it,” Beeby said. Regarding overenrolled and underenrolled courses, they look to see if they are able to raise those caps to make sure students can get into them, but they also make sure to take into consideration the type of classroom environment and the course that is being offered.
The average course size is relatively low, according to Beeby.
For programs that are expanding in the number of students enrolled, they will of course be given the opportunity to offer what they need to in order to accommodate that, Beeby said.
“It’s a two-way conversation. It’s not one specific approach, it’s a collaborative approach,” Beeby said.
Tim Bruns can be contacted at