Classes cancelled due to sizes, faculty issues

Michael Brennan

Students scramble at registration time to make the schedule that works best for them. But sometimes this perfect schedule does not work out because a course is cancelled.

University Registrar Joshua Berry said there are various reasons deans choose to cancel a class.

“It’s a pretty common, unfortunate practice in higher education with offerings,” he said.

Sometimes faculty cannot teach the course, either because they moved to a different school or are not interested in the topic.

Other times, not enough students sign up for a course. Despite this, there is no specific number the university looks at to determine if a class is too small to run, Berry said.

“If there’s an x-amount of students below a certain threshold it doesn’t make sense to run the class because you’re not properly allocating your resources,” Berry said. “You’re not having a faculty member able to ultimately use their resources in the best manner.”

Small classes may not provide the same benefits to students as a large or average-sized class, Berry said.

“Sometimes super small courses where there are only a handful of students, you don’t have that give and take,” Berry said. “You don’t have that exchange that a normal traditional-sized 15 to 20 student class would have.”

When deans do decide to run a smaller class, it is often because a small group of students need the class to graduate.

However, if a survey course for freshmen and sophomores has low enrollment, then the deans may cancel the section. The deans reason that these students could take this class again, Berry said.

“A lot of it is a lot of common sense,” he said. “It’s based on demand, it’s based on factors of allocation of resources in terms of faculty being available.”

Berry said there is no pattern to which classes are cancelled. However, students in smaller majors have a greater chance of having their classes cancelled because fewer students will sign up for a course.

On the other hand, if a particular class is in high demand, the deans can add additional courses. For example, Berry said the university added more QU seminar courses for freshman.

“Often times more classes are offered with the hope and the sense that students will be maybe attracted to a particular dimension of their own discipline,” he said.

However, these additional courses need classroom space, which causes less popular classes to be cancelled to make room for the high-demand courses.

“It’s a constant ebb and flow of planning and design,” Berry said. “It’s not like we have this amount of kids, let’s jam 50 kids in the class. That’s never the goal and the hope of any higher education institution. It’s more of what are the needs, what are the demands?”

Berry said this problem may dwindle now that the School of Communications and Engineering moved to the former law school building, creating more space for classes.

“This should grant the university some more opportunity to spread classes out in a more balanced and effective manner,” he said.

Students can be asked to take the course online when classroom space is not available, Berry said.

“Space isn’t an issue in terms of scheduling, physical space or location,” he said. “So that does help quite a bit having that as a growing option in the last 15, 20 years in education, having online learning be available.”

Sophomore Madeleine Pizzuto’s HM 404 Legal Aspects of Health Class was moved online. Pizzuto said she must take the class because it is required for her major, but she would rather take the course in the classroom.

“It’s kind of annoying,” she said. “I didn’t want to take an online class.”

When a student’s class is cancelled, he or she is notified by the professor or the department, Berry said. The student should then speak to their advisor or associate dean to find a replacement for the course.

Sophomore accounting major Nick Gabriele had to move into a different SB 212 class after his section of this one-credit business class was cancelled. Gabriele said he did not know the class was cancelled until he looked on WebAdvisor this summer.

This was the second time one of Gabriele’s classes had been cancelled. He had to meet
with his advisor last spring to switch into a new QU 201 class after his section was cancelled.

“It would have been nice to know right away when it was cancelled that it was cancelled,” said Gabriele. “So I wouldn’t be scrambling to find a class last minute because there was only one open segment of QU at the time, so I kind of got stuck in one.”

Occasionally students could take on an internship, do an independent study or get the class waived if one of their required courses was cancelled.

Berry said the registrar office is there to help students figure out which classes they can take.

“Whatever we can do to help the students,” Berry said. “We’re kind of the hub of the academic transactions of the university.”