Open courses to more students

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November 11, 2013

10:21 PM

It’s 7 a.m. and Banner has just opened. You have all of your CRNs lined up: some major requirements, a GER, that creative writing class you always wanted to take. You copy and paste them frantically, praying that if the system does not crash, you will get what you want. As you wait, a cacophony of profanity erupts throughout your hall; the lucky are satisfied but silent. To your disappointment, most of what you wanted was closed, but worse — so were classes necessary for your major. The full College of William and Mary experience would not be complete without this happening at least once. Sadly, this is the norm for many students, especially those in majors like computer science, where the lack of teachers makes it harder for students to get into classes that fulfill their major requirements. Funding for professors has been a perpetual problem at the College, but that should not prevent students from getting into classes for their major, nor should it restrict them to classes solely for their major.

A scarcity of openings for required courses hurts students as well as the College. This could force computer science majors to graduate late or even transfer, resulting in a loss of talent and tuition money for the College. In other departments where the situation is less dire but still visible, there is a broader problem: Classes fill up instantly, preventing non-majors from taking them. A liberal arts education should let students take a broad range of classes; a government major should be able to take a film class, for instance, or even a computer science class. We are constantly encouraged to take classes outside of our comfort zone and become well rounded, but how can we do so if we are closed out of those classes? It’s a disappointment when four years go by and interests are left unexplored.

We understand that, with limited funding, maintaining quality pay for current professors is a challenge. However, an expanding student body necessitates changes. One short-term solution may be to temporarily expand class sizes to accommodate demand. The College would have to consult advisors and professors, who may receive requests for overrides and find non-registered students sitting in on their classes on the first day. This would not solve the problem, but it would create more opportunities for students, who would likely accept slightly larger classes if they could actually take the classes they wanted. The U.S. News and World Report college ranking system’s emphasis on teacher-student ratio might deter the College from making such changes, but if not enough professors are hired to accommodate the increasing student body, that ratio will increase anyway.

The College has made some fantastic improvements in the past year to its dorms, academic buildings and dining halls. While those improvements beautify our campus and make our living experience more pleasurable, they matter little if the College cannot satisfy the intellectual and academic demands of its student body. A lack of classes and professors poses a problem not only for majors struggling to satisfy their requirements, but also for students who want to expand their skill sets and discover new passions. For the College to remain a truly elite liberal arts university, it needs to address this issue.

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