Over the past week, most students have spent a fair amount of time flipping furiously through the course catalog. At first, the prospect of choosing a mere four classes out of so many fascinating offerings seems gleefully impossible. This enviable quandary, however, is soon replaced by true frustration for many students as the initial euphoria of choice and variety dissolves in a frantic search for that rare combination of classes which don’t result in schedule conflicts, which still have space, and which investigate interesting topics, all the while filling major and division requirements.
A closer look at the course catalogue will reveal enough “(Not offered 1998-99)s” to make us wonder if the Registrar might provide us with a course pamphlet, filled with courses we might actually be allowed to take.
This is a bit sarcastic, perhaps. We certainly realize and appreciate the necessity of listing courses that aren’t offered this year, but are to be offered next year. It is essential for planning that we know what courses might be offered in coming years. Still, it is undeniably frustrating to leaf through the course catalogue and be greeted only by classes we cannot take. The process of choosing classes can often leave us at the beginning of the semester sapped of our idealism toward our education and bitter about our lack of control in determining the path of that education.
Some departments, studio art being a prominent example, are virtually shut off to non-majors. The W.S. Spencer Studio Art Building is a fantastic facility, flaunted to prospectives on tours. The deception, though, is the idea that any students are free to make use of the facility. What they do not tell people on the tour is that in all likelihood a non-major or non-potential-major will have to spend three years trying before actually getting into a studio art class. Slots are so limited in the classes that the department has become exclusive to the majority of the campus.
The fact that we are sometimes excluded from classes, though, is necessarily not a bad thing. Many classes must be kept to a small size in order to remain effective. Class size caps are instituted for a reason and we in no way seek to challenge the validity of that reason. Keeping classes small is not primarily important because of the inherent pleasure gained from sitting in a small intimate group as opposed to a large lecture. While many do feel an affinity for the former, we will aver that there is a place for the latter. The problem arises when the potential educational value of a given class is stifled by the crowded room. Some classes depend upon discussion for their efficacy as academic experiences. When the number of students in a class rises much above 20, the quality, and at times even possibility, of discussion is greatly hampered.
We value small classes; in many instances, we would like to see them considerably smaller. To alleviate both the problem of students’ getting dropped from classes and that of upwardly creeping class sizes, more classes must be offered. There is simply no other solution. If there were more options of different classes, it would be unlikely that all students would flock to certain classes, overcrowding them. With more variety, students would spread themselves out and be able to enjoy more autonomy in their course selection.
To offer more classes, the obvious prerequisite is to hire more professors. We realize that this is an expensive venture, but we feel that it is time the College took seriously what is a problem on the cusp of becoming a disaster.
The College has recently spent billions on multiple renovations projects across campus. State of the art facilities are indeed critical to preparing students for the modern world they will face upon graduation. Even more crucial, though, are the professors who teach within those facilities. When the College does not provide adequate instruction for students to take advantage of the facilities, they are failing in their promise to educate us.