When Alex Chen ’22 saw on CourseTable that many of his friends were shopping HIST 155: “California Capitalism,” he decided to try it out too. As he arrived at Room 102 of Linsly-Chittenden Hall for a lecture he expected to be small, Chen was shocked to find 320 fellow shoppers — forcing a location change to a much bigger lecture hall in the newly opened Yale Science Building.
Despite changes to guidelines made by Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun in fall 2018, shopping period can still be a stressful time for students. In interviews with the News, sophomores in particular expressed frustration with the shopping process. Of seven sophomores interviewed, six agreed that heightened demand for limited-enrollment courses, along with the priority given to upperclassmen, have caused second-year students to feel relatively neglected in the process.
“Sophomore year seems like an awkward middle ground where you can’t take any cool first-year seminars, but you also can’t get into classes that prioritize upperclassmen,” Aman Heyer ’22 said. “I think there’s a general mentality that sophomores still have a lot of time at Yale and so don’t get much priority when it comes to classes for majors. But this attitude can cause major headaches for a lot of students trying to take classes that may not be offered next year.”
When asked to respond to the sentiment that sophomores feel neglected, Chun said that while he is unsure “what is meant by neglected,” he hopes several recent undergraduate initiatives will help sophomores gain admittance into classes with limited enrollment.
In December 2018, Chun announced the introduction of new shopping period guidelines — including a request that instructors post a list of students admitted into their classes within 48 hours of the first meeting and that they include “detailed and clear criteria for admitting students” in course syllabi posted on Canvas before shopping period begins. Still, Chun told the News in December 2018 that administrators “don’t have any way to enforce” these guidelines, as they are solely advisory.
“The new guidelines were introduced to reduce uncertainty for classes with limited enrollment,” Chun wrote in an email to the News. “Although the guidelines have given students and instructors more information, sooner, I want to improve the course selection period even further, possibly by introducing earlier target dates for students to declare their interest in limited-enrollment courses, and by exploring a more uniform pre-registration system.”
According to Chun, he is currently working with faculty to “find ways to give students better information on the criteria used to select students and to save spots for sophomores.”
He noted that while “it may not feel this way during shopping period,” many courses have enough spaces for students. According to Chun, adding an early preregistration step in the future — while continuing shopping period — “should help address the inefficiencies and anxieties of the current system.”
“While I think it is good so many students get to take interesting classes while also satisfying distributional credit requirements, I think professors could better accommodate course enrollment by using data from CourseTable or OCS to better predict course demand in advance and adjust section times and room locations accordingly,” Chen said.
Ethnicity, Race and Migration students in particular expressed frustration over a shortage of courses and seminar spots during shopping period.
Karen Li ’22 told the News that since the ER&M program has a limited amount of faculty “to start with,” the increase of interest in the major has made it “more difficult” for people to take the classes they are interested in. She added that receiving a seat in seminars is “so difficult as a sophomore,” since there’s “never preference” for these students.
“Present ER&M courses offered are pretty interdisciplinary for a program, which makes it difficult when you are shopping for seminars, and you realize it’s an ER&M credit, but political science majors are trying to pursue it, etc., which increases the demand for the class,” said Baji Tumendemberel ’22. “We get a lot of different majors in ER&M classes as opposed to higher level chemistry classes, and the ER&M track is not as clear as other majors which can be more sequential in how you pursue the major.”
Last spring, 13 senior ER&M faculty withdrew their labor from the program, citing lack of University support. Following activism from students, faculty members and alumni, the program’s chair Alicia Schmidt Camacho announced in May last year that ER&M “received new institutional status and permanence that will allow [them] to recommit to the Program.”
“I take great joy in imagining the future of the Ethnicity, Race, and Migration Program at Yale and our new capacity to partner with institutions and colleagues beyond this University,” Camacho wrote in the May announcement. “I am grateful that our faculty remains committed to teaching and mentoring students interested in what has become one of our university’s most dynamic and fastest growing undergraduate majors.”
While the 13 professors returned to the program, many students still feel that the demand for ER&M courses is greater than what is being offered.
In an email to the News, Camacho echoed these students’ “sense that [ER&M needs] to expand [their] course offerings” — particularly in underrepresented fields. ER&M Director of Undergraduate Studies Ana Ramos-Zayas also told the News that she is “aware of students’ increasing frustration” with not being admitted into courses.
Ramos-Zayas noted that there has been a “rapid increase in interest” in the program, which has “certainly” contributed to the general trend of oversubscribed ER&M courses. While she said that the program will continue to increase its teaching capacity, this process takes time, and in the meantime, sophomores may feel discontented “more acutely” because juniors, seniors and declared ER&M majors receive preference in oversubscribed classes.
“In ER&M, we value the seminar, sometimes over the lecture, as a preferred classroom configuration,” Ramos-Zayas said. “Maybe there is a way of having a few lecture courses per semester, or maybe we can figure out a way to allow for some flexibility in terms of the capping of a specific course. For that, we would have to set in place teaching support, [teaching fellows], etc. These are just some general options we will consider in faculty meetings in the upcoming weeks.”
According to Ramos-Zayas, other units at Yale offering courses on topics related to ER&M “also face high demand.” If these courses are unavailable in other departments, students often seek out ER&M courses in particular.
She noted that this is “an important structural issue” and suggested that other departments hire faculty to teach courses on ER&M “to satisfy increasing student interest.”
“We are working closely with administrators and our colleagues in other departments to make new hires and create additional academic resources that will strengthen our program,” Camacho said.
Yale’s ER&M program was founded in 1997.
Alayna Lee | firstname.lastname@example.org
Khue Tran | email@example.com