On the first day of term, I knew the time had come. I had put this off for years, but waiting had done nothing to diminish the dread I felt toward completing my second science credit. I had waited until the last possible moment — the spring of my sophomore year — to complete the first of the SC distributional requirements. Now, I hoped that somehow, if I stared at the navy-blue boxes outlining the suggested schedule for completing our distributional requirements, the science requirement would, you know, just go away. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and my dean sent me a stern email reminding me to complete the requirement. Two years ago, I went into my first science class at Yale with bitter memories of my high school self, titrating phenylethylene over a fat beaker, the bright fuchsia betraying my percent error. Needless to say, my first science credit didn’t go well, even though there was no phenylethylene involved. And now, with only one semester left of college, I’m left with this final, looming requirement.
At the beginning of shopping period, I unwillingly trekked — yes, I know that this isn’t “trekking” for some people — up to Hillhouse to shop a class that was dubiously called, “Arrested or Adaptive Development in the Adolescent Brain” to solve this problem. The class was at nine in the morning, on the first day of shopping period, so of course I showed up late. To my dismay, when I entered the cramped classroom in 17 Hillhouse, the professor announced that she would only be admitting 20 students to the course. There had to be at least 40 students in the classroom. I recognized that many of the students were also second-semester seniors who were in need of that last science credit.
According to an article in the News, many students hoping to take an entry-level science class are out of luck. Even large introductory lectures are beginning to place caps on the number of students admitted. In my first year, it was always difficult for students to gain admission to seminars and art classes. I became all too familiar with emailing professors opening with the sentence, “I hope this email finds you well…” But it seems that so many classes — from lectures to seminars to everything in-between — were absurdly oversubscribed this shopping period. Is it normal for a Wittgenstein seminar to have 60 students enrolled? Should seniors be rejected from multiple science classes when they so desperately need that last, ever-elusive science credit? I think not.
I’m not a huge fan of lectures myself. I find extremely large classes unfulfilling: it’s difficult for me to sit, surrounded by dozens of my peers, listening to a teacher drone on for forty minutes. There’s no conversation in a lecture. There’s no back and forth. There’s no exchange of ideas. Maybe smaller lectures are a good thing. They can provide us with the opportunity to make these classes more engaging by giving students the ability to ask professors more questions and have in-class discussions. But the application process shouldn’t be a mad dash to fill out surveys and pen feverish emails, particularly when students are required to complete distributional requirements.
To be fair, Dean Chun made significant changes to shopping period by giving new guidelines to instructors, which require them to promptly notify students when they are admitted to courses and post syllabi in advance of shopping period. Nonetheless, it seems that this shopping period is just as chaotic — if not more so — as shopping periods in previous semesters. Perhaps this is because the number of undergraduates at Yale has increased from 5,400 to 6,200 this year. We can’t just fix spacing issues by posting syllabi, preregistering and releasing guidelines; even if students are notified about their admission to a class more quickly, this issue can’t be addressed if we don’t increase both the number of classes taught and the number of faculty hires.
Yes, other colleges have far more than 6,200 students enrolled, and, as a result, the classes in these institutions tend to be far larger than those at Yale. But I feel that my experience taking seminars at Yale was one of the most distinctive and rewarding parts of my college experience. I just hope that the College can begin to create more classes or hire more faculty or do something else to fix this problem so that future generations of Yalies can have a rewarding educational experience.
Isis Davis-Marks is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column runs every other Wednesday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .