Overcrowding a concern for some class sections

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sit at a desk in your last class? Consider yourself fortunate.

Many sections are experiencing overcrowding this semester, so much so that students must sit on the floor and, in some cases, windowsills during lectures.
Enrollment in these congested classes ranges from the 28 students of GNSS 1960B:”Health and Healing in American History,” crowded in a Wilson Hall classroom, to the whopping 261 in a single section of ENGN 0090: “Management of Industrial and Nonprofit Organizations” in a Barus and Holley auditorium.

Classroom scheduling is usually based on an estimated 120 percent of pre-registration numbers, Michael Pesta, the University registrar, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. Once classes begin, however, “enrollments can fluctuate unpredictably,” he added.

Anthony Adams, a visiting assistant professor of english, requested that his 53-student class, ENGL 1210: “History of the English Language,” be moved from Wilson Hall 205, which has a maximum capacity of 42, to a larger room in an effort to retain interested students.

Riley Blanton ‘09.5, a member of the class, said he thought some students may have dropped the class during shopping period because of the crowded space.

“It got to the point that people couldn’t even open the door to get in,” Blanton said.

The class eventually moved to a larger room in the Center for Information Technology, but Adams said the bigger space has cost the class the “campfire quality” it had before the move. He added that while he was surprised by the turnout, he prefers teaching one large class to two smaller sections.

In a big class, “you feel like you’re on stage at a rock concert,” he said.

For some professors, overflowing sections are not unusual. Professor Emeritus of Engineering Barrett Hazeltine offers three sections of ENGN 0090, a perennial favorite among students. Hazeltine acknowledged that enrollment is up from last year, but he said enrollment numbers fluctuate from year to year.

He also said he polled the class regarding a room change, but despite the fact that the 261 enrolled students in one section far exceed the room’s capacity of 140, “the consensus was to stay.” Now, with students taking turns sitting on the floor, Hazeltine says he thinks people are more involved and engaged.

Though students like Blanton described the overcrowding as distracting, he and others said they did not think the tight space detracted from their education.

Colette DeJong ’11, who takes INTL 1280: “Global Security after the Cold War,” a once-weekly lecture class with roughly 20 students more than chairs, said the lack of seats in class doesn’t bother her too much.

“I’m always late, so I’ve never had a seat yet,” she said. But that has not hurt the level of student participation, she added.

“Global Security” may soon be moved to a bigger room, but in the meantime, DeJong said the seat shortage might even be beneficial.

“It encourages people to get there on time,” she said.