Adventures in Ethics and Science

Because we’re all in the same exploding monkey factory together.

So far, no paper jams of consequence to report at the department photocopier, but the toner ran out at 11:58 AM Pacific Time. We are hopeful that the student assistant who comes on duty at 1:00 PM will be able to change the toner swiftly while whispering soothing words to the photocopier.

(Faculty are not allowed to change the toner, because as a group we have demonstrated little competence at this messy task. Also, the crying makes onlookers uncomfortable.)

Today’s policy ponderable:

We have as a goal helping students to graduate (especially “super-seniors” who have more than the minimum number of credits for graduation but who still need to take one or more courses that meet their major or general education requirements). However, given the ginormous budget shortfall, we must also reduce our enrollments from where they stand right now on the first day of class — before our official “census day” next month. Basically, this means that we can’t add anyone to our classes, and we are well advised to pray to the deity of our choice that a bunch of our students drop.

So, I’d love to help you graduate, but I can’t add you to my course.

My classes don’t start meeting until tomorrow (I’m just trying to make copies today). I’m hopeful that the students are not in full-freak-out mode about a semester whose conditions, honestly, could make a person freak out.

Comments

  1. #1 Jared
    August 24, 2009

    I’m confused, if they drop classes, doesn’t that mean they pay less tuition?

  2. #2 Janet D. Stemwedel
    August 24, 2009

    My recollection is that the tuition rate students pay doesn’t vary linearly with the number of classes they take. (So, they may pay less if they’re only taking one class, but the price-per-class may be lower of they’re taking four or five.)

    However, the big issue is that the student fees only cover a fraction of the cost of delivering the education. A big chunk of that still comes from the State of California, which, being broke, is putting up less money for the California State University system this year.

    Myself, I’m perplexed as to why the computer system through which students registered for classes wasn’t programmed to stop enrolling people when our (reduced) enrollment targets were reached. But there are many things here that perplex me.

  3. #3 Jennifer
    August 24, 2009

    when i was a science undergrad at a very small liberal arts/sciences university, 2 of the biology professors had over-enrolled courses — they had very limited lab space and only 1 lab time slot for each course. they had an informal competition among themselves – who could have the higher dropout rate during those first few weeks of classes. i think one course had a 49% dropout rate and the other had a 51% dropout rate. how did they do this? by making their lectures near impossible to follow so that only those with a strongly vested interest in completing the course (i.e., hardcore biology majors) would stay enrolled. students looking for a “bird course” were free to look elsewhere.

  4. #4 Jim Thomerson
    August 25, 2009

    I was a geology major at the University of Texas in the mid-50′s, when there was huge surge in geology enrollment. When I took the sophomore required rocks course, there were 350 of us in the room. The first day of class the professor told us only 150 of us would receive a C or better as there was no more room in the next required course. No one dropped out so far as I could see. Toward the end of the course, he said that the grades were too closely grouped and that he was going to give us the most difficult test he could write in hope of spreading the grades. Next class after the test, he stood at the front of the room shaking his head. The average on the test was 89.5%. And you think you have problems!

  5. #5 truth is life
    August 31, 2009

    Myself, I’m perplexed as to why the computer system through which students registered for classes wasn’t programmed to stop enrolling people when our (reduced) enrollment targets were reached. But there are many things here that perplex me.

    I believe that’s because many people drop the course (or courses) within the first week. As a student myself I have noticed classes getting much less populous after a week or two of class. Though often the big drop waits for the first test. Anyways, much like airlines, they probably figured on some no-shows.