The end of the first week of add/drop period usually brings a quiet sense of relief and order in a storm of chaos; most students are set with their schedules by this time, and only the few unlucky stragglers are left still scrambling for classes in the dying days of shopping period. This semester, however, has been characterized by an unusual surge in the number of harried students who are still looking for classes as late as today. Over enrollment appears to be a pressing problem: a lot of hassled students have reported being unable to get into classes required for their major; many professors and departments seem to be stretching themselves beyond their capacity to accommodate the overwhelming demand from the student body.
The reasons behind this sudden surge in demand for classes are varied and complicated. Two pressing factors appear to be that the unexpectedly large size of the class of 2014 disrupted the student-faculty ratio, and that there is a change in enrollment patterns for unexplained reasons. One hypothesis is that, given the uncertain economic climate, more students are enrolling in what they see as “practical” majors and courses: the psychology, economics and mathematics departments are just a few of the ones that are feeling the strain. Indeed, one could point to a general hangover from the recession as a factor behind course over enrollments this semester. While the problems that arose took everybody by surprise, the faculty and administration are growing aware of and sensitive to the problem. Many students have recently been invited to join departments in the quest for more faculty hires.
The Student believes it imperative that the administration work towards finding a solution to over enrollments as soon as possible. Amherst prides itself on its low student-faculty ratio, and accessibility to both professors and classes.
Faced with the pressure of over enrollment, departments should not be trying to stretch themselves thin and overworking in response to this surge in demand, when their time and resources are better spent devoted to their respective academic pursuits.
We need to make this a priority.
Until measures are taken, students should go into next semester better prepared to deal with the situation. Every student should look into short term solutions such as packing the first week with prospective classes and back-ups, exploring majors and departments outside one’s usual interests and better utilizing the Five College system.
The administration has already made a great step to soften the blow of an unexpected rejection: starting next semester, every professor is required to disclose on the course website their policy for dropping students from their classes. While it is important for us to acknowledge the problematic situation and understand the complexity of its roots, it is heartening to see the College take several positive steps forward.