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Open slots in Fall 2017 introductory courses

Topics/tags: Registration, follow-up

Preregistration for Fall 2017 is now over. Cuts, closes, and balances are now over, and add/drop period has started.
I was about to look at current space in introductory courses, but got distracted by looking at the CCB process. Now that that’s done, let’s see where things stand.

We should have about 450 students in the incoming class. Let’s assume that 90% of them take three classes plus Tutorial and that the remaining 10% take two classes plus Tutorial. I have no idea whether or not those numbers are correct, and I haven’t accounted for students who can start in non-introductory courses, but it seems like as good a starting point as any. I calculate that we will need about 1300 slots in introductory courses for those students [1]. Are we prepared, assuming that no other introductory slots are taken [2]?

Humanities: Art, Music, Theatre, and Dance

  • Art History: 28 slots between the two sections of ARH-103, Introduction to Art History
  • Music: 20 slots in MUS-110, Introduction to Western Music. 19 slots in MUS-112, Music Theory I. 39 slots total.
  • Studio Art: 7 slots between the two sections of ART-111, Introduction to the Studio
  • Theatre and Dance: 8 slots in THD-113, Movement for the Performer. 5 slots in THD-117, Introduction to Acting. 13 slots total.

There are 87 open slots in these subjects. About 1 in 5 incoming students can take a four-credit course in the arts.

Humanities: Foreign Language

  • Arabic: 20 slots in ARB-101 Beginning Arabic I.
  • Chinese: 23 slots in CHI-101, Beginning Chinese I.
  • French: 41 slots between two sections of FRN-101, Introduction to French I. 23 slots in FRN-103, Accelerated Introduction to French. 22 slots in the two sections of FRN-221, Intermediate French I. 23 slots in the two sections of FRN-222, Intermediate French II. 109 slots total.
  • Greek: 13 slots in GRE-101, Elementary Greek.
  • German: 26 slots between two sections of GRM-101, Introductory German. 25 slots between two sections of GRM-221, Intermediate German I. 51 slots total.
  • Japanese: 23 slots between two sections of JPN-101, Beginning Japanese I. 8 slots in JPN-221, Intermediate Japanese I. 31 slots total.
  • Latin: 13 slots in LAT-103, Elementary Latin.
  • Russian: 34 slots in RUS-101, Beginning Russian I. 13 slots in RUS-221, Intermediate Russian I. 47 slots total.
  • Spanish: 27 slots between two sections of SPN-105, Introduction to Spanish Language I. 37 slots between two sections of SPN-106, Introduction to Spanish Language II. 68 slots between four sections of SPN-217, Intermediate Spanish. 28 slots between two sections of SPN-285, Introduction to Textual Analysis. 160 slots total.

There are 477 open slots in these subjects. If things balance right, every incoming student can take a foreign language. That’s good. Students should study foreign language.

Humanities: Other

  • English: 41 slots in ENG-120, Literary Analysis. 31 slots in ENG-121, Introduction to Shakespeare. 72 slots total.
  • Humanities: 16 slots in HUM-101, HUM I: The Ancient Greek World. 17 slots in HUM-102, HUM II: Roman and Early Christian Culture. 13 slots in HUM 185, Film Analysis, Theory, & Criticism. 46 slots total.
  • Philosophy: 2 slots in PHI-102, Symbolic Logic. 44 slots in PHI-111, Introduction to Philosophy. 2 slots in PHI-135, Philosophy and Literature. 48 slots total.
  • Religious Studies: 21 slots in REL-104, Studying Religion: India. 22 slots in Studying Religion: East Asia. 43 slots total.

There are 209 open slots in these subjects. Fewer than one in two students can start with one of these subjects that are core to a liberal arts education [3].


  • Environmental Studies: 22 open slots in ENV-120, Environmental Challenges and Responses, 9 open slots in Intro to Earth System Science. 31 slots total.
  • Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies: 56 slots between three sections of GWS-111.
  • Global Development Studies: 3 open slots in GDS-111, Introduction to Global Development Studies.
  • Linguistics: 12 slots in LIN-114, Introduction to General Linguistics.

There are 102 open slots in these subjects. About one in four students can start with an interdisciplinary course [6].


  • Biology: 79 slots between four sections of BIO-150, Introduction to Biological Inquiry
  • Chemistry: 57 slots between three sections of CHM-129, General Chemistry. 12 slots in CHM-210, Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry. 69 total slots.
  • Computer Science: 56 slots between the three sections of CSC-151, Functional Problem Solving
  • Mathematics: 29 slots in MAT-123, Functions and Differential Calculus. 116 slots between four sections of MAT-131, Calculus I. 126 slots between five sections of MAT-133, Calculus II. 7 slots between two sections of MAT-215, Linear Algebra. 278 total slots.
  • Physics: 31 slots between three sections of PHY-131, General Physics I. 21 slots between two sections of PHY-132, General Physics II [8]. 52 slots total.
  • Psychology: 49 slots between three sections of PSY-113, Introduction to Psychology.

There are 305 slots in sciences other than math, and another 278 slots in math. About two-thirds can take a science. About two-thirds can take math [9].

Social Sciences

  • Anthropology: 51 slots between the three sections of ANT-104, Anthropological Inquiries
  • Economics: 107 slots between the six sections of ECN-111, Introduction to Economics
  • Education: 11 slots between the two sections of Educational Principles
    in a Pluralistic Society
  • History: 53 slots between three sections of HIS-100 (various topics).
  • Political Science: 69 slots between four sections of POL-101, Introduction to Political Science.
  • Sociology: 71 slots between five sections of SOC-111, Introduction to Sociology.

There are 362 slots in the social sciences. About three-fourths of incoming students can take a social science in their first semester.


  • Statistics: 31 slots in MAT-115, Introduction to Statistics, which is not open to first-year students [10].

Where does that leave us? I seem to have counted 1820 open slots for introductory students. I estimated that we needed 1300 slots. That leaves a reasonable cushion. Even if the 200-or-so students who were cut from other courses added these courses (and they won’t necessarily do so, since most qualify for 200- and 300-level courses), we’d still have a reasonable cushion. Students may not get the exact courses they want the first semester, but they should get a good start to their liberal arts education.

Or so I hope.

[1] Wow, that sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? That’s about 54 courses, more or less.

[2] Note that because the languages clearly leave spots in 200-level classes for incoming students, I’ve included their 200-level courses.

[3] I’ve heard it suggested that every liberal arts student should take introduction to philosophy. Grinnell doesn’t have general education requirements, but if it did, I’d prioritize Philosophy [4,5].

[4] Well, I’d also want students to take Foreign Language, Statistics, a course that emphasizes the scientific method, a course that helps them understand the other, and probably some other things.

[5] Hmmm … if every student had to take Introduction to Philosophy, the Philosophy department would be in even worse shape than CS is. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

[6] I will admit that I don’t think it’s that important that students start with an interdisciplinary course in their first semester, other than Introduction to Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies [7]. The first year should at least partially be about exploring potential majors, and most students will be taking a foreign language and math, even if those are not their potential majors.

[7] I’ve been told that that comment was unclear. Since GWSS is a potential major, students should be able to take it in their first semester. I’d steer my advisees away from environmental studies or linguistics in their first semester.

[8] Can students start in General Physics II? I think so.

[9] I’m pretty sure that about two-thirds do take math in their first semester. I’m less sure about the other sciences, but I’d venture to guess that it’s also about two-thirds..

[10] Given that large number of open slots, do we really need two sections of MAT-115? Fortunately, that’s not for me to decide.

Version 1.0 prepared around 2017-05-08.

Version 1.2 released 2017-05-09.

Version 1.2.1 released 2019-11-17.