Following a multitude of student complaints regarding this fall’s Drop/Add period, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) is working with Provost and Vice President Academic Affairs Rob Rosenthal to improve course access for future semesters. Because of the larger freshmen class, students have found it increasingly difficult to find available seats in courses necessary for their majors, or in subjects that pique their interest.
This fall Mariama Eversley ’14 found herself unable to take the introductory class she needed as a hopeful government major.
“I attended three classes and did the work for them, but I still didn’t get in,” Eversley said. “I know so many more people who had problems with Drop/Add. This wasn’t a rare situation.”
Eversley said she ended up adding a fourth class that did not relate to her major.
“It made me feel panicked and frustrated,” she said. “I love Wesleyan, and I’m excited to learn. But it’s difficult to accomplish if I can’t get the classes I need.”
The Chair of the WSA Academic Affairs Committee Mari Jarris ’14 said that the issue pertains to the distribution of courses rather than the overall availability of spaces in classes.
“There isn’t a lack of available spots,” Jarris said. “It’s just about how the spots are distributed. It’s definitely an issue that needs to be examined, and there will be measures implemented by next semester.”
Jarris suggested that a great deal of the University’s Drop/Add troubles stem from the larger issue of tenure in departments.
“The popularity of various departments changes over time,” Jarris said. “We have a lot of tenured professors in departments that no longer are popular that we can’t redistribute.”
Jarris said that one way to remedy this situation is to send visiting professors to departments that face the most pressure. In addition to this proposed solution, Rosenthal and the Academic Affairs Committee have discussed a variety of other measures.
Rosenthal said that at the end of the Drop/Add period, there are approximately two thousand empty seats in classes. Rosenthal suggested that many of these seats may actually be in gateway classes that people have signed up for and then dropped.
“People hoard classes,” Rosenthal said. “They sign up for six, they go to all of them, and then they drop two in the last week of Drop/Add when it’s useless for other students.”
In an attempt to address this problem, Rosenthal and the Academic Affairs Committee are proposing only allowing students to register for four courses during the first week of Drop/Add. Currently, students’ advisers can allow students to register for over four classes at any period during Drop/Add.
Rosenthal also proposed shortening the Drop/Add period by a week.
“The longer Drop/Add period is one of the things that invites students to hoard classes, because it gives them time to try out each course,” Rosenthal said.
Furthermore, Rosenthal suggested that the Drop/Add period may pose problems for students and professors beyond the scope of course registration.
“From my experience as a professor, I don’t like the longer Drop/Add period because students who come in after a week and a half then need to spend the entire semester catching up,” Rosenthal said. “They’re at a disadvantage, and they disadvantage the class and the professor as well.”
Jarris, on the other hand, believes that Rosenthal’s proposed shortening of the Drop/Add period could cause additional problems for students.
“We’ve definitely heard complaints about the proposal,” Jarris said. “There’s classes such as physics labs that don’t even meet in the first week of Drop/Add. The proposed system would make it difficult for students to actually use Drop/Add.”
Rosenthal indicated that his priority is restructuring the course selection system in a way that works for students. He suggested that a new set of data that the University is gathering will be vital to this process.
“Getting reliable data is really going to help us figure out where the problem lies,” Rosenthal said. “That is, if it’s in relation to hoarding, an insufficient number of classes, or us needing more faculty. We’ll have a better idea in a couple of weeks.”