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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Got No Class: Students Face Increased Class Cancellations

Got No Class: Students Face Increased Class Cancellations

There is an old joke that goes, “You know what they say about school in summer? It’s got no class!” Well, if UMass students aren’t careful, that just might be true for the fall as well.

Ninety-one classes were cancelled this semester at UMass due to a low enrollment numbers, compared to fifty-nine from last fall semester. Twenty-seven of these courses were in the College of Liberal Arts, twenty-six in the CPCS, seventeen in the Graduate College of Education, eleven in the college of science and math, eight in the college of management, and two in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Ed Hayward, the associate vice chairman of University Communications, claims these class cancellations to be the result of stricter enforcement of course attendance requirements. “This is a result of increased attention being paid to the course enrollment benchmarks. You need to have twelve students in the undergraduate class, and eight in the graduate; however, in the past these policies had not been routinely enforced.”

Relaxed enforcement of attendance policies in the past years has caused the administration to be more reluctant to grant leeway toward under-enrolled classes. “The provost began looking at low-enrollment, under enrolled classes as far back as 2002,” Hayward said, “and the University does not have the resources to finance courses that are not properly enrolled.”

Robert Crossley, the Chairman of the English department, saw six cancellations in that department this semester. But Professor Crossley understands the administrative decisions. “It’s because the University budget is in rough shape, and every time we offer a course with fewer than twelve undergraduate students in it, the University loses money, and it can’t afford to lose money. So I am sympathetic with that.”

One suggestion to maintain a tighter budget is for the University to reshape its’ policies regarding part-time faculty. Julie Winch, a tenured professor of history, had her class about pre-Jackson era America cancelled. She was fortunately able to be reassigned a graduate class on genealogy, something of which she has an extensive knowledge. But Professor Winch has some definite ideas in order to avoid another probable cancellation. “I think the basic idea is obviously to cut down on the number of part timers. Obviously the administration doesn’t want to have someone who is a full-timer with a course they see as not economically viable, and then they are paying a part-timer to teach a course.”

The idea that part-time faculty contribute greatly to UMass’ budget woes does not shock the University Administration, and Vice Chairman Hayward makes a point to evaluate the predicament. “Beginning in the spring of 2005, the Provost office began working very closely with the deans, and the deans with their department heads, to begin to look more closely at course offerings because the financial issue is essentially that we had part-time faculty teaching courses that were under-enrolled, and we had full-time, tenured faculty teaching courses that were under-enrolled. You want your tenured faculty to be teaching the full compliment of courses they need to teach, and to reduce you reliance on the part-timers, because these are extra costs.”

According to Hayward, the predicament of having too many part-timers at UMass has been recognized by those outside the administration as well. “The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) review,” Hayward stated, “noted that we needed to reduce our reliance on part-time faculty. So we expect to see fewer part-time faculty teaching on campus.” Yet overstaffing does not change anything for those affected by this semester class cancellations.

Andrea, an UMass senior who did not want to reveal her last name, fell prey to this semester’s influx of cancellations. Fortunately for her, those cancellations did not interfere with her hopes of graduating on schedule. “I am really lucky because I have all my prerequisites done, all my major and minor requirements done. I just needed things that filled this specific timeslot. But for other people that are trying to fulfill a major requirement and get out of here, it is devastating. I mean what do you do? Go to your adviser and get them to approve the class, even though it’s not in the department?”

Andrea’s class was cancelled ten days prior to the beginning of classes, on August 23, leaving little time to find other classes to fill her schedule. The school provost’s office states that they gave the student body ample time for registration by sending out letters, prior to August 23, to any student who remained unregistered. These letters were accompanied by an e-mail of the exact same content. Unfortunately, only twenty-five students heeded the warning, and came to register.

Professor Crossley aptly observes one facet of this late registration. “I think the trouble is when it’s time to cancel a class not everybody’s registered yet for a variety of reasons. Sometimes students haven’t been able to write the check yet, and that’s who we are.”