“Who has a good story?”
That was the question posed by a frantic UC Santa Cruz professor to the crowd of close to one hundred students crashing his class as I sat in the back row of the J. Baskin Auditorium last week, my mouth agape as I watched the disarray unfold.
Class enrollment horror stories are always plentiful at the start of every quarter, but the straits are becoming dire as budget cuts have led to a decrease in the total number of general education and upper division courses being offered each quarter.
While for some, this has meant not being able to take that Music of the Grateful Dead class that they wanted to be in “just for fun,” this problem has forced many more students to take drastic measures — everything from having to stay an extra year, to leaving the state entirely and transferring to another college at which class enrollment is not such a crapshoot.
It’s gotten to the point at which students are cramming into the aisles of lectures and spilling out into the halls on the first day of classes, at which professors have to ask for a good story or literally pull names out of a hat in an effort to decide who should and should not be admitted to their class.
The fact that students have to jump through so many hoops to obtain the education which they have dedicated so much of their time and money to is ridiculous and shameful. It is one major indicator of the downward spiral in what was once considered one of the best public education systems in the country.
If the continuous cutting of courses due to financial constraints cannot be stopped anytime soon, the administration can at least find a way to make class enrollment more manageable and make sure that those who especially need to get into a particular class for their major are prioritized above all.
One possible method for dealing with the class enrollment crisis could be to create an online system through the registrar’s office in which students interested in getting into a particular class would fill out a form specifying their year, major, what prerequisites they’ve completed, etc. The student could then receive a number indicating where they are ranked on the waitlist based on the information submitted, as opposed to leaving it up to how quickly they were able to sign up for the waitlist. They would then automatically be added to the class as spaces opened up, based on how high they were ranked on the waitlist.
If there was a designated system for dealing with waitlists, it would limit the chaos and confusion surrounding students as to what method they should take to try to get into a particular class, and would take the pressure off professors to determine who to let in their classes. Regardless of whether or not an elaborate system like this could be established, there should be some kind of set of guidelines for who should be prioritized for a class instead of leaving it to a professor’s discretion or the luck of the draw.
In addition, the administration should at the very least acknowledge that it realizes this is a problem and look into ways to lessen this predicament. Instead of observing the issue from afar, the administration should be visiting lecture halls and classrooms to show its solidarity with the students and professors, and to show that it recognizes what’s going on and is working towards finding some sort of solution.
The UC mission statement, which stems from the University of California Academic Plan of 1974-78, reads in part, “the distinctive mission of the University is to serve society as a center of higher learning, providing long-term societal benefits through transmitting advanced knowledge, discovering new knowledge, and functioning as an active working repository of organized knowledge.”
The administration should take a long look at this pledge and realize that it is not fulfilling this obligation to students and society as a whole by continuing to scale back on classes that are vital to particular majors and act instead of continuing to sit on their hands.