In past semesters, most classes with fewer than five enrolled students have been canceled for not having met minimum enrollment requirements. However, instead of canceling low enrollment courses this year, the College has aimed to fill those courses during Phase I by pulling students out of their first-choice courses?even if those classes are not yet full?and placing them in their low-enrollment, second-choice courses.
According to Dean of Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd, some 20 students were affected by this minimum enrollment policy during this week's course registration process.
"We wanted to make sure Bowdoin students have the widest variety of courses available and the best experiences in those courses, and we believe in offering lots of small courses so we can make that possible," said Judd in a Thursday night interview with the Orient.
Although the policy has been included in the Faculty Handbook for almost a decade, this is the first time that students have actually been removed from their first-choice courses in an effort to fill their less popular second-choice classes.
The purpose of the policy is three-fold, according to Judd. First, moving some students from their first to second choices allows those students who selected a low enrollment class as their first choice to actually take the class, rather than having it canceled. Second, the policy allows the College to offer more small classes. Lastly, it provides faculty the opportunity to teach "important courses for the College" that might otherwise be canceled.
"We canceled courses in the fall. This time, we didn't cancel any courses," Judd said.
"[Low enrollments have been solved] in the past with the cancellation of courses after the fact, which leaves students stranded, so trying to make sure that we include minimum enrollment as part of the algorithm is important," she added.
A student who wished to remain anonymous said he first learned about the minimum enrollment policy when he did not get into his first choice course despite the course having 13 open spots.
"I got up this morning and went to Phase II and got in the class," he said. Afterward, the students said he was contacted by Registrar Christine Cote and asked to come in so she could explain why he had not originally received his first choice.
"She told me that Dean Judd had told the Registrar that they should take students out of their first choice classes and put them in their second choice if it was under-enrolled," he said.
"I was very surprised. Cote expressed sympathy with me and she said it was the first time it had ever happened," he added.
Cote could not be reached for comment.
A number of professors contacted about the issue said they had never before heard of such a policy.
"This is totally new me," said Professor of Government Allen Springer. "But I can see why we'd want to encourage more people to go into those under-enrolled classes." However, Springer also noted that the policy might not be particularly effective, since those students forced into their second choice courses would likely switch back to their first choices in Phase II.
Professor of History Page Herrlinger said that while she was formerly unaware of the policy, she is confident that those in charge of the enrollment process know what they are doing.
"It is important to keep the system in balance," she said. "I think they need to do this in order to get people into classes and to make the system work. In the end, it all works out."
However, she said that this process emphasizes how important it is for students to only put courses on their cards that they are actually interested in taking.
"I would never advise a student to back up any course with a course they wouldn't want to get," she said.