In a move that may create difficulties for students, the administration at La Salle has decided to make a number of changes in class schedules during the 2009-2010 academic year.
Responding to budgetary problems during the ongoing recession, the number of course sections offered by each department will be curtailed, the class size caps for many sections will be increased, and more classes will be scheduled outside of so-called ‘prime-time’ slots.
As the school’s budget woes have grown, it has sought to reduce payroll costs by eliminating adjunct professors and replacing them with full-time faculty. Since many basic courses, those assigned a number at the 100 level, have been taught by adjuncts, those classes will be assumed by full-time professors. This shift has resulted in a reduction in the number of higher-level courses offered.
Caps on class sizes have been raised to account for the smaller number of sections being offered in both basic and upper-level courses. Caps vary by class, and some have been increased nearly 50 percent. The number of sections cut in each department varies also, with estimates ranging from 15 to 20 percent.
The measures represent a greater degree of intervention by the Provost’s Office than in previous years. In the past, department chairs have drafted schedules and submitted them to the provost for approval, but this year the provost has determined when courses will be scheduled and placed restrictions on how many courses above the 100 level will be offered.
In particular, the provost has required that more classes be offered at 8 a.m. and after 3:00 p.m. in an effort to prevent schedule conflicts between important courses. In the past, some students have been forced to choose between required courses scheduled to meet simultaneously.
At the same time, the changes may prove to be a hardship on some students. The upper-level courses that will see the sharpest reduction in sections offered include required courses for all majors. With these restrictions, departments will be hard-pressed to offer those required courses often enough, with potentially dire consequences for students.
“Quite frankly, I’m worried if this is the wrong decision, we may have some people not being able to graduate,” said Kevin Harty, chair of the English Department.
He expressed his concerns about conflicts students might face, even with the courses spread out farther across the day. He pointed out that required courses may still conflict with equally important commitments in other departments.
Michael R. Dillon, chair of the Political Science Department, was more optimistic but also foresaw some difficulties.
“My sense is that everyone is trying to accomplish something that is best for the students,” he said. “What the ripple effects may be, I don’t know.”