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Smaller budgets, fewer classes
CAS cuts courses for spring 2015, class sizes increase
By Nicole Hanson and Sarah Doiron
With decreases in course budgets and sections, the sizes of classes are growing, especially in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Robert Smart said various classes have been cut across campus because the university can no longer fund them.
“It was getting harder and harder to explain to the rest of the campus why [CAS] was running so many sections with small numbers of students,” Smart said.
Two years ago, a course in CAS could run if it had at least 10 students enrolled in the section. However, Smart said a class now has to have at least 12 students to run.
“We just can’t afford it anymore,” Smart said. “It has focused attention on the fact that we have to plan more carefully.”
Smart said average class sizes in CAS have been increased from 16 to 18 students this year to reduce the number of sections offered. He says this number is low compared to state schools, who increased from 30 to 35 students in each course.
“The hope was to make sure we were keeping these sections reasonably full and not having very small sections taught by adjuncts,” he said. “[That way] we would have enough money to teach classes that are important for majors and minors.”
Although Smart says the university aims to keep class sizes under 20 students, adjunct English professor Marianna Vieira is still concerned for the First-Year Writing Program.
“If the class sizes go up to over 25 students I don’t know how this program is going to run,” she said. “You can’t do this kind of work with that many students. We used to have 15 students maximum in our classes and because of the editing and time needed to work on essays, we need smaller classes.”
Smart said, ideally, all classes should have a small number of students.
“If we never had to worry about money we would run all of our classes with only 10 students in them, but that isn’t the real world unfortunately,” he said.
Smart said at one time CAS had 91 freshman English courses available, but this year the department cut down to 81 available freshman sections. By adding two students to each section, the department cut eight of the sections. The freshman class is also smaller this year than the Class of 2017, so the department could cut two additional sections.
Ten 200-level or higher English classes that are supposed to be available every spring, according to the 2014-15 course catalog, are not offered next semester. This means only 52 percent of English classes that are said to be offered will actually be available for students to take in the spring.
Like these English courses, only 62 percent (eight out of 13) of 200-level or higher history classes listed in the course catalog are available. Meanwhile, 50 percent (six out of 12) of the 200-level or higher biology classes which, according to the course catalog, are offered every spring will not be available next semester.
This means either the university has cut courses or provided incorrect information in the course catalog online.
Vieira said writing fellows are asked to teach 25 percent more students and take an 8 percent cut in their salary.
“Most of us are not in any situation to negotiate because there aren’t many jobs out there,” she said. “But my concern is if the university is in financial trouble, then I think [faculty is] the last thing that should be cut.”
This past May, the university laid off 16 professors in areas of declining enrollment and hired 12 new professors in areas of growth. Though five of 16 were quickly reinstated, the Faculty Senate strongly disapproved the layoffs.
Vieira said part-time faculty have a very important role in students’ education.
“I can’t see [full-time faculty] doing what we do because they have other obligations such as student advisement,” Vieira said. “They don’t have as much time as us to attend to students the way we do in class.”
Smart doesn’t doubt the importance of the adjunct faculty members, but he said the full-time professors come first.
“There’s no doubt that the adjuncts here are very important because we couldn’t do what we do without them,” he said. “But if the choice comes between full-time and part-time faculty I have to support the full-time faculty member. It’s how the system works unfortunately.”
Junior public relations major Kori MacDonald said one of her current classes was affected by the layoffs and reinstatements in May.
“I registered for a class with one professor and I get to class—completely new professor,” MacDonald said. “People choose classes for days and times, but what if I’m choosing it for a professor and all of the sudden they’re gone?”
Though MacDonald hasn’t been dropped from a course section, she said she’s struggled to get into required public relations classes to stay on track. She had to be manually added to a class for next semester that only offers one section.
“My sports PR [class] next semester is one day a week for two hours and something minutes,” she said. “But if I wanted to take a class that starts at one point and ends in the middle of that class, then I have to do one or the other and then it messes up my track.”
Junior finance major Tom Madzey said he had no trouble registering for his classes in the School of Business, but he had trouble registering for courses required by the university.
“I was just searching for a bunch of different classes and nothing was showing up. I got into a QU301 class but that was pretty much it,” he said.
Unlike CAS, the School of Business has not seen a reduction in course offerings this semester, according to Dean Matthew O’Connor.
“It’s pretty rare that a section doesn’t fill up in the business school,” O’Connor said. “It’s much more likely that we would add a section.”
O’Connor said the School of Business has seen a “modest but steady growth” over the past six or seven years due to the skill-oriented education it offers.
“College has gotten very expensive and students are looking to get a great education but also get some tangible skills toward their ultimate careers,” he said. “Business schools are growing because I think students are looking for that little bit of extra [skill] so they’re prepared for a career.”
In the School of Communications, 75 percent (six of eight) 200-level or higher Media Studies courses listed in the 2014-15 course catalog will be offered next semester. Only 71 percent (12 out of 17) of film, video and interactive media courses at these levels will actually be offered in the spring, despite what is advertised in the course catalog.
Meanwhile, junior health science studies major Nicole Torres said she was forced to drop her nutrition course for next semester.
“They changed it to an 8 a.m. and I had originally been signed up for [another] 8 a.m. So then I had to switch that class also,” she said. “They should’ve known that before [I registered.] I had a really early registration date too, they shouldn’t have just [switched it] randomly. It was ridiculous.”
Since the School of Health Sciences is accredited and must meet certain standards, there is not a large variation in the undergraduate courses offered each semester. However, Senior Associate Dean Betsey Smith says physical education is seeing some changes this year.
“We’re trying to change the notion and the philosophy of physical education,” Smith said. “We’ve eliminated some of the least popular [courses] and now we’re adding different options.”
Although various schools are working through changes in course availability, Smart said students’ education is what matters most at the end of the day.
“[Layoffs] happen in schools I think because [the university has] lost focus of what is most important and that is the student’s education,” Smart said. “If your students are successful then the school will take care of itself.”
Joshua Berry of the university registrar was not available for comment on this story.