September 10, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 7  

Front Page >> News > Sometimes being too big is a bad thing


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Sometimes being too big is a bad thing

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

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 student.

"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.



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