Politics students left high & dry

Department loses four instructors, adds last-minute courses

Politics Professor Kim Richard Nossal thinks more emphasis on research means less emphasis on teaching.
Politics Professor Kim Richard Nossal thinks more emphasis on research means less emphasis on teaching.

This year’s pre-registration period brought an unpleasant surprise for many upper-year politics students. After logging on to QCARD in July, they found most of the courses they needed to complete their degrees were already full.

Class enrollment caps at 55 students at the third-year level and 19 students at the fourth-year level.

The politics department had originally scheduled 28 courses at the third-year level and 32 at the fourth-year level.

Four courses were cancelled before pre-registration because the instructors left without enough time for the department to find replacements. Some of the instructors left to take other jobs, said Undergraduate Chair Wayne Cox in an e-mail interview.

“[It’s] not unusual at all given that some of these [instructors] are either graduate students who have just completed or will soon complete their Ph.D., [or] post-docs who are in the job market.” All four were scheduled to teach fall term courses, leading to an imbalance in the course offerings each term.

Cox said the subject matter of certain courses also affects the rate at which they fill up.

“As in other departments, there are always certain courses that many students want into, and in a competitive program like politics, we simply cannot fit everyone into those popular courses,” Cox said.

Once the pre-registration period began, frustrated students contacted the department.

“The way [students] acted in the pre-registration period? Not very nice,” said Sheri Foster, undergraduate assistant. “They were very upset that the courses filled up so fast.” In response Kim Nossal, politics department head, sent out an e-mail to all upper-year students on July 26, explaining the situation. In it, he said enrollment caps would be raised for the more popular international politics courses and some additional courses would be added in time for registration, which began Sept. 4.

Two courses have been added to the fall term at the fourth-year level.

“We added a total number of courses that added a total number of 93 seats at the fourth-year level,” Nossal said.

The department added one third-year course.

“Nossal said third-year courses had “lots of space” by the end of preregistration.” Nossal said issues like this are unavoidable.

“These things happen. They happen every year.” In his e-mail, Nossal encouraged students to “think about taking a course you think you don’t really want to take.”

Corey Black, ArtsSci ’08, had a late time slot and was unable to get into any of the courses he wanted when he initially tried to register.

“Before preregistration I’d made my whole timetable, with eight, almost nine, different options,” he said.

On September 4, when the add/drop period began, he was able to register in two fourth year political studies courses, both in which he has “no interest whatsoever.”

“It’s upsetting because we’re fourth-year students,” Black said. “That’s the purpose of being in fourth year.”

Black was also able to register in two fourth-year Political Studies courses for the winter term once the add/drop period began.

“You’d think we could actually get the education we want, not the education we’re forced to have,” he said. “If the time ticket system is a lottery, it’s just complete luck.”

Black said the e-mails students received attempted to shift the blame elsewhere.

“Their e-mails, they’ve never said, ‘We apologize,’” he said. “It’s been strictly, ‘This is why it’s happened—it’s not my fault at all.’”

Black isn’t going to try to make any more changes to his schedule.

“There’s obviously nothing I can do about it,” he said, adding that Professor Nossal’s e-mail explicitly stated that students shouldn’t approach professors.

Not all students experienced the same problem. Jessica Soedirgo, ArtSci ’08, had a time ticket for the first day of pre-registration.

“I got all the courses I wanted. I guess I was just lucky,” Soedirgo said. “I actually didn’t even realize there was a problem with pre-registration until I got the e-mail from Professor Nossal.”

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