The start of the spring semester has left some students scrambling for new courses as at least four courses have been canceled, and others have been added or rescheduled to meet student demand.
This semester, Comparative Education with Dean for Academic Advancement Kassie Freeman, Advanced Seminar in Chinese Politics with Professor of Asian Studies and Government Lance Guo, and the courses The American Presidency and Advanced Seminar in American Politics: Presidential-Congressional Relations with Professor of Government Janet Martin were canceled.
When a course is canceled students receive notification from the department, the Office of Student Records, or the dean's office. The administration says it tries to notify students as soon as possible about schedule changes, as well as help affected students find replacement courses.
Sophomore Ian Yaffe, who was enrolled in Freeman's Comparative Education course, said he received a "vague" e-mail on January 18, just four days before classes began, explaining that the course had been canceled.
"I had a hard time scheduling a new course because I already scheduled my work semester around my classes," Yaffe said. "Then I didn't have enough time free and I tried to find another class. ... I tried to do an independent study, but all the professors in my department were busy?it was too late in the game."
Freeman's Comparative Education course would have been her first class at Bowdoin, but was canceled because of her recent appointment as vice president for academic affairs for the Southern University System in Louisiana. Finding a new a professor to teach the course would have been difficult due to Freeman's last-minute appointment and the fact that the course was a new addition to the curriculum.
"The reason I made the request not to teach was because I am going to be in and out, back and forth between these new responsibilities," Freeman said. "I completely apologize for the difficulties or hardships this may have caused, but I didn't want to cheat students by not being available."
Despite the inconvenience, Yaffe did find a "great class" to replace Comparative Education.
Dustin Brooks '08 also had to find a new course when Comparative Education was canceled.
"I was really looking forward to the course, was pretty disappointed, and pretty clearly unsettled," Brooks said. "The prospect of finding a new course in four days was a little overwhelming. I was kind of surprised that they didn't offer a set course of help. They essentially said 'it's canceled and good luck,' which is understandable considering waiting lists and things like that."
According to Brooks, although he understood the situation, he would have liked the opportunity to pursue an independent study related to the canceled course.
As for Martin's courses, Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd said they were canceled due to other opportunities for the professor.
"Professor Martin is on research leave this semester; the American Presidency course that she had been scheduled to teach is being offered with another instructor," Judd wrote in an e-mail to the Orient. "The students who had registered for her senior seminar were able to fulfill their requirements in other classes."
Calvin Mackenzie '76, a former Bowdoin trustee emeritus and current Colby College Goldfarb distinguished professor of American government, has assumed teaching responsibilities for Martin's American Presidency course.
According to Guo, his Advanced Seminar in Chinese Politics was probably canceled because of lower-than-expected enrollment and the need to offer a different course. It was suggested that Guo teach International Political Economy, instead. Some of the students enrolled in Guo's canceled seminar course opted to do independent studies.
"There is always this issue of balance between smaller and more intensive classes and better use of resources," Guo said.
Judd also noted that certain factors cannot be predicted during the period when course offerings are designed, so adjustments are made later on as necessary.
"We think long and hard before we cancel a course," she said. "When a course is canceled for enrollment reasons, we try to identify this as soon as possible. In discussion with the faculty member and department, we then determine what other course the faculty member will offer instead."
According to the Faculty Handbook, "courses with a pre-registration of fewer than five students should normally be canceled by the department and replaced with a course likely to attract a larger enrollment."
The handbook also outlines possible exceptions for certain courses that do not meet this pre-registration minimum. Classes in the fall semester likely to be filled with first-year students, others necessary to meet the language curricula, courses with content necessary to maintain a "viable and serious major," those that would not provide majors with sufficient advanced work in their area if canceled would still be taught regardless of enrollment numbers. In addition, classes offered for the first time or "by instructors in the first year of a tenure-track appointment" would still be taught if enrolled by fewer than five students. The dean may approve other exceptions.
"Last fall 16 courses had enrollments of four or fewer students, this semester, 19 do," Judd said, adding that "small classes are an important part of the Bowdoin experience."
"However, too many classes with fewer than five students may impact our ability to meet the needs of students, so it is always a delicate balancing act," she said.