SOM plagued by overcrowding

Six months after the arrival of a first-year class that was larger than expected, some School of Management students are complaining of a persistent space crunch.

An exceptionally high yield of students admitted last year, combined with scheduling issues and what some describe as a facilities shortage, have left some MBA students scrambling for seats in classes and study areas. Their dissatisfaction is not shared by all students, however, and administrators said they have avoided overcrowding issues by adjusting schedules and opening new study space.

After introducing a revamped core curriculum last spring, SOM witnessed an 11 percent increase in applications and ultimately a 21 percent higher yield than the previous year. The school had hoped to reduce its class size by 20 percent to facilitate a transition to the new curriculum, but while administrators wanted to have 180 students in its class of 2008, 208 students ultimately matriculated.

Students at SOM said overcrowding has become an increasing problem.

“We’re constrained,” Kiran Patankar SOM ’07 said. “We’re kind of hurting on space.”

Many of the reports of overcrowded classrooms appear to stem from the school’s flexibility in allowing students to occasionally attend different sections. Students have exercised the option in order to attend interviews for summer internships or other jobs, particularly in the past two months, which has caused minor space issues, said Mothusi Pahl SOM ’07.

Pahl said last semester he witnessed students sitting on floors during classes, especially when some skipped their earlier scheduled sections. He cited a popular class taught by professor Vincent Perez, in which a invariably packed classroom would force students to haul in chairs from other places.

“If you go into a classroom and there are people sitting on the floor, that becomes an image issue,” he said.

Most students interviewed said the problem is confined primarily to the new core curriculum taken by the first year class, for which courses are often larger than those of second years.

But scarce study space is an issue for both first years and second years. Pahl said he often finds himself studying in the Yale Law School building when he cannot find space in the School of Management’s facilities.

Christian De Pace SOM ’07 said that while the student body is “surviving” with the existing study space, there is always a need for more.

But SOM administrators and some students said overcrowding has largely been avoided. SOM Dean Joel Podolny said those teaching the core classes — including himself — have alleviated overcrowding in the spring by accommodating students’ summer internship interview schedules.

“There was absolutely no overcrowding in the fall, and I actually don’t really think there has been any in the spring with respect to the core classrooms,” Podolny said.

He added that the administration has worked with the student government to mitigate any issues with study space, including opening Donaldson Commons after hours. Ultimately, he said, the planned construction of a new SOM building will resolve any outstanding concerns.

“One of the reasons we want to move to a new building is to increase the space that’s available to the students, and we’re moving ahead on that as quickly as we can,” he said.

The School of Management plans to build a new facility on the four-acre plot of University property between 155 and 175 Whitney Ave.

Justin Tomljanovic SOM ’08, who serves as a class representative on the SOM student government, said that while he does not believe overcrowding is a problem on campus, the issue reflects the school’s burgeoning national prestige and increased attractiveness to potential applicants.

“SOM’s moving up the rankings; [overcrowding] is actually a positive thing,” he said.

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