Crowded Classes Create Course Conundrum
By The Executive Board
One of the most touted benefits of a small liberal arts college is the close relationship between students and professors enabled by the small class sizes. Having limited numbers of students in each class also facilitates discussion, collaboration and greater participation. However, the recent trend at the College has been a detrimental increase in class size. The total number of students enrolled here is increasing at the same time as the number of professors remains the same, with many going on sabbatical. Subsequently, there are far too many large classes. This problem will certainly compound in the coming semesters with the planned increase in the size of the student body.

Furthermore, freshmen are crowding upper-level courses. Professors are accepting students far beyond the class limit, turning what should be a small seminar into a lecture class. When a class reaches a certain size, it cannot foster the same atmosphere of intellectual participation and the professor is forced to merely lecture on a subject that should be discussed. It is extremely difficult for professors to get to know students in such an impersonal environment and the class becomes one-sided instead of a place where an exchange of ideas can occur. Subjects like English simply cannot be properly taught in a large class because students need to do more than copy what the professor says; they need to think about the material and discuss it in order to understand it. The close relationships that come with small classes also make students more comfortable with expressing their own ideas and challenging professors, which are both important components of intellectual growth. Professors cannot have sufficient interaction with their students in big classes.

Professors need to more strictly enforce limits for classes because of the high cost of letting in too many students. Upperclassmen should be able to take advantage of small seminars, especially in the departments they are majoring in, to fully realize the benefits of their education. Some large introductory classes are inevitable, but beyond this, higher-level classes need to be limited in size.

Exacerbating the problem is the extremely limited range of times that most students want to take classes (and most professors want to teach them). More students will enroll in a class offered at 10:00 a.m. than at 8:30 a.m. Therefore, these classes are always overenrolled; all students tend to want to take classes in the same block of time, so professors all offer classes at the same time. To counter this, we believe that course times need to be more spread out. This would both reduce scheduling conflicts and make enrollment numbers more even.

The College’s role is to provide the best educational environment for its students; limiting class sizes is an important component of this mission. Small classes are much more rewarding for both students and professors. The low professor-student ratio flaunted in all of the promotional materials given to prospective students is a selling point for a good reason; the College must take measures to reduce class sizes and restore the educational opportunities that make this school so unique.

Issue 21, Submitted 2010-04-07 03:41:36