Sometimes being too
big is a bad thing
By Laura Katsirdakis
It is not every year university student issues
are headline news, but with the double cohort, this year is
different. Classroom space at some Ontario universities is so
poor, some students are forced to sit in the aisles.
"We have roughly 25 per cent more first
year students than last year," said Sheila Embleton, VP-academic
at York University. "[The faculty] did a lot more detailed
planning this year to prepare," she added.
Embleton explained the overcrowding could
be partly due to students who are not yet registered and are
still shopping around for classes.
Rather than increasing class size, York has tried to add more
sections to classes that are in high demand, Embleton said.
"We would never overbook [to the point that] fire rules
were broken," she said.
"As far as I'm aware, [overcrowded classes]
haven't been a problem," said Brian Timney, Western's dean
of social science. "It hasn't even reached our radar."
"We try not to overbook classes,"
Timney said, "[but] sometimes the class size is smaller
than the class room."
Doug Long, a political science professor
at Western noted the task of getting students in and out of
class takes longer with the larger numbers this year. "I
used to talk to students for 15 minutes after class," he
said, but time constraints may limit this.
"[This year Western has] the largest
section of politics 020 ever," said Martin Westmacott,
another political science professor. The result will be a big
priority on Teaching Assistants as tutorial leaders, he added.
"[Large classes feel] like being right in the middle of
a movie theatre," said DJ Lynde, a first-year social science
"There is not enough time to talk to
[the professor]," said first-year social science student
Kara Merpaw, adding she is discouraged by the size of the class.
At the University of Waterloo, strategies
to deal with the large number of students include adding more
evening classes and even making some weekend labs, explained
Amit Chakma, VP-academic and Provost at Waterloo. "We are
keeping a close eye on the [overcrowding] issue and it is my
understanding that it is under control," he said.
University Student's Council President Paul
Yeoman said the Quality Assurance Fund provided by the provincial
government can be used to remedy the problem of overcrowding.
The QAF funds can be used to hire more faculty, making class
sizes smaller, he said.
Yeoman added he has not heard any complaints
of overcrowding at Western so far this year.