For the time being, it appears Western will
lose one more “bird” course.
The Gazette has received several letters to the editor bemoaning
the cancellation of biology 355b — Adaptations and Ecology
of Birds. Answering the complaints, Western’s administration
has stated that the course is not being permanently eliminated,
and will return in September 2005.
But due to the retirement of Ryan Zimmerling, the professor
who specializes in birds and was responsible for teaching the
course, biology 355b will not be offered next year. The search
for a new professor is underway, but for now it seems as if
students will need to familiarize themselves with the phrase “bye-bye
The possible end to biology 355b raises an interesting question
about specialized courses — or the lack thereof — at
Western. With the amount of tuition students pay, many would
assume there is enough funding for more specialized undergraduate
material in all programs, and enough professors to teach the
University should offer a chance for students to follow their
interests in particular areas. Consequently, the structure
of undergraduate studies needs to be re-examined, with course
schedules being based on student demand instead of the availabilty
The first two years of undergraduate studies should be spent
learning the basics and finding out what interests you most.
By third year a gradual transition into more specialized courses
should begin to ensure that by fourth year, students aren’t
jumping from the basics to the intensely specific.
In many departments, seminar classes do not begin until fourth
year and students are expected to make the change without the
experience of having focused on one subject in detail.
Also, seminar course offerings change year-to-year, meaning
students are forced to settle on what is available instead
of what they demand. As the courses change, so do the professors
teaching them, and sessional professors are often called upon
to teach. This can be a good experience, but many students
find these lecturers apathetic about the specialized subject,
its value and the students themselves. A broader range of specialization
amongst professors would benefit students and lessen the need
for sessional fill-ins.
In order to find out what students want, the university should
create a program to measure demand for particular courses and
subjects that is tied to the Intent to Register system. During
regular summer registration, students could then be informed
of the feasibility of their choices and allowed to enroll in
courses that generated sufficient student interest.
If Western re-evaluated their methodology for determining
which courses to offer, it would make students happier and
help to promote the school to potential incoming students.