When English professor robert Morrison is teaching, he likes to know the names of all the students in his class. This year, because of increased class sizes and the popularity of certain courses, such as Morrison’s romantic literature course, that’s just not possible. “I like to know everyone’s names because I think that’s respectful,” Morrison said. “With ninety-three people in a class, I can’t do it.”
Morrison said the classes he’s teaching this year are very full, something he said is becomingmore common.
“The English department does wish the classes were smaller; I certainly think the students would
want that,” he said. “There’s only one way of getting that, and that’s money. If you want smaller classes, you have to hire more profs. That means things like tuition are going to go up, and who wants that?” Morrison, who described his experience teaching a 200-level romantics course as “going to a
football game,” would rather teach a smaller group. “I want to make a personal connection with every student that I teach. It’s not just hard for me [in a large class], it’s hard for them,” Morrison said. “There’s no way you can learn as much in a class of 93 as you can in a class of 20.”
Alexandra Howard, ArtSci ’08, is enrolled in Morrison’s class. she said she finds it harder to learn with
the class so large. “On the whole I find it intimidating,” she said. “I really enjoy the class because the prof’s dedicated and he recognizes the problems. [but] it’s harder to participate and get all you would
out of the class.”
According to professor Mark Jones, English undergraduate chair, the student to faculty ratio—determined by dividing the total number of students enrolled in a faculty by the number of course sections—is actually down this year. “For last year, our total figure for all classes had 2,360 students
enrolled in 50 sections, a ratio of 47 students to one,” Jones said. “This year our enrollments are down a little bit. We’re down to 2,251 and we actually have one and a half more courses or sections, so
our ratio is down by three, to 44 to one.”
Although enrollment in a given faculty may be down, certain sections and certain faculty members will always draw big crowds. Jones said this explains the high numbers in classes like those taught by Morrison. “Rob Morrison has won teaching awards, so his courses are very heavily subscribed to,” Jones said. “They’re usually full, and sometimes a little bit over full.” Roberta Lamb, the school of
Music’s undergraduate chair, said the Social History of Popular Music, which, at 400 students, is the department’s largest course, has 100 more students enrolled than last year. “I wasn’t the chair of
undergraduate studies last year, but … I think the limit was 300,” Lamb said. “We did get it into a arger hall this year, so there are 400 seats so there can be 400 people.”
As with Morrison’s English class, Music 171 is a popular course among students, and it fills up quickly.
“Music 171 is specifically for students who might want to take one course in music,” Lamb said.
“It’s designed to appeal to a large student-body population.”
Because of large variances between one-on-one instruction and larger ensembles, the Music department does not keep records of student-to-faculty ratios. Kemi Adeodu, ArtSci ’08, is a student in the History department’s Global Politics of Childhood class. The class has 128 people enrolled in it.
adeodu said that the more interesting courses offered come at the price of large class sizes. “The classes that I have that are the largest are the ones that are in great demand,” she said. “A lot of
students are disappointed if they can’t take something. you have to have a little bit of flexibility based
on how desperately you want to be in the class.”
Jeff brison, the History department’s undergraduate chair, said the Global Politics of childhood class, as well as the History of the Holocaust, are both very popular classes, especially with many students who take history courses as an elective. “They are fuller than they have been,” brison said. “The Global Children’s course is new, so there’s nothing to compare it to, but it was filled up to capacity almost right away in pre-registration, and the Holocaust course has always been popular.”
Although numbers are up in certain classes, the student-to -faculty average in the History department as not changed verymuch over time, brison said. Though Adeodu leaves early for the evening class in order to ensure that she gets a seat, she said she doesn’t think that large classes interfere with her learning.
“I think tutorials are where learning most effectively happens and there is a large effort, at least in History, to make sure you have that participation.”
—With files from Anna Mehler Paperny and Gillian Wheatley