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After the cuts, the closes, the balancing acts (for Fall 2020) (#1066)

Topics/tags: Registration, Rambly, Unedited

Today the Cut/Close/Balance process for Fall 2020 finished. As I’ve mentioned previously, the whole process seemed pointless to me. We know that, no matter what model Grinnell chooses for the fall, things will change. Why put faculty and staff through the work of figuring out the cuts and balances? Why give students the negative experience of being cut or changed? We were told that we had to go through the process to understand student demand. But my sense was that the original preliminary registration shows demand better. After students are cut from, say, SMS-195, it’s no longer as obvious that 58 students had signed up for the course. And maybe one of the fall models would permit that (most likely through multiple sections).

I’m not sure how to order my thoughts, or even what to look for. But let’s see what I can figure out. I should explore cuts, closes, and balances, although not necessarily in that order.

For those who are new to the whole process, after the CCB process, courses are marked as Open, Balanced, Closed, or Canceled. Students can register for Open courses without instructor permission. Students can enroll for Balanced and Closed courses only with instructor permission. Those that are closed and full generally will not allow students to join. Those that are closed and not full are often leaving spaces for incoming first-year students. 100-level classes that are balanced are also usually leaving spaces for incoming first-year students. Polite requests sometimes work, but not always. Demands rarely work.

Follow-up: I wrote about some cuts, some balances, some over-enrollments, some closes, some expansions, maybe something else. I was probably not consistent. For example, a course that over-enrolled by one or two students probably ended up in closes while on that overenrolled by three or four ended up in over-enrollments.

I ran out of energy at Environmental Studies. A bit later, I found energy to push through. I’m not sure I caught everything. I’m not sure I care. Maybe some semester, I’ll remember to start at the end of the alphabet, rather than the front. Or maybe I’ll find a better way to work through all the data.

Some Cuts

It’s hard to tell retrospectively which courses have cuts. Generally, cuts show up as closed courses with no openings, but not always. Having an earlier version of the enrollments helps, but it’s a lot of work to compare [1].

  • It looks like six (6) students got cut from ANT-225-01, Bio-determinsm & Myth of Race [2]
  • I can’t quite tell what happened to ART-111, Introduction to the Studio. It was over-enrolled [3]. Now there are nine slots available, including four in section four, which had been over-enrolled by seventeen students. Puzzling. The other sections appear to have been balanced, although they are now marked as Closed. It’s nice to know that there are a few slots open for incoming first-year students.
  • ART-134, Drawing, seems to be in a similar state. It was slightly over-enrolled. I had assumed it would be balanced, but seven students were cut from section 2 and none seem to have been moved to section 1. So some slots remain, either for those who beg to be added or for first-years.
  • ART-195-01, ST: Intro to Film Studies, cut three students. It is now at capacity.
  • It appears that ART-238-01, Painting, cut one student. I hate having to do cuts like that. You choose your course capacity for a reason, but it sucks to have to decide to cut when you are cutting only one or two students [4].
  • Wow! Ten students seem to have been cut from BCM-262-01, Introduction to Biological Chemistry. Is that what Biological Chemistry normally does? I’m not sure.
  • BIO-240-01, Animal Behavior w/lab, cut eleven students.
  • BIO-325-01, Fungal Biology w/lab, seems to have cut two students, remaining over-enrolled by two. I don’t quite know how that happens.
  • BIO-380-01, Molecular Biology w/lab, seems to have cut thirteen students. I wonder where they go. And I feel really bad for the chair in Biology, who clearly had to do lots of shifting. (See notes below.)
  • CHM-363-01, Physical Chemistry I w/lab, cut seven students. I wonder how they decide who to cut. All third-years, perhaps?
  • CLS/HIS-258-01, The Roman Empire, cut twenty students. Monessa must be accustomed to cutting. I wonder what her strategies are.
  • CSC-301-01, Analysis of Algorithms, cut twenty-one students. Many got moved to CSC-341 (more on that later).
  • CSC-324-01, Software Design & Dev w/Lab, cut three students. I think some voluntarily left. We may have balanced it, too. At least it looks balanced.
  • ECN-282, _Macroeconomic Analysis (aka macro), cut five students and balanced the two sections. I wonder how they decided who to cut. We likely would have looked at students who had two courses in the department, or students who could be moved to another course (e.g., the one slot in micro).
  • ECN-286, Econometrics (aka ’metrics), cut six students. More on Econometrics below.
  • Twenty-eight students were cut from ENG-205, The Craft of Fiction. I don’t know how we can better adjust for the demand on that class. Maybe have English faculty teach fewer Tutorials?
  • About thirty-seven students were cut from ENV-261, Climate Chng, Devel, & Envrnmt. I’m not sure how that course got cut to one below capacity. I thought that wasn’t permitted. (I know when we’ve asked to do that so that there’s a bit of slack [6] to allow students to petition to get back in, and were not permitted [8] to do so.)
  • HIS-261-01, Mod Africa: Sahara to Zambezi, cut six students.
  • MAT-316-01, Foundations of Analysis, cut three students. I wonder who those students are and where they go. I’d expect it’s non-majors, but I’m not sure.
  • POL-237-01, Political Parties, cut four students. There are open slots in other political science courses, including some that meet at the same time, so I expect there’s a hope that students will switch. But I wonder how Political Science decides who to cut.
  • POL-251-01, Internatl Political Economy, cut five students. See prior reflection.
  • POL-352-01, US Forgn Policymaking Process, cut five students. It’s still over-enrolled by three.
  • PSY-246-01, Brain and Behavior, cut seven students. I wonder if those students will switch to the other 200-level Psych courses that are open, or were they taking it primarily for a neuroscience concentration?
  • SMS-195-01, Intro Sci, Med, Tech, cut thirty-one students to get to a state in which it is now over-enrolled by only two. In a normal year, I would hope that we would have found a way to add another section. I wonder if I’ll end up with some of the SMS students in my TEC-154 course in the spring [9].
  • SOC-230-01, Mass Media and Society, cut twenty-five students, leaving the course over-enrolled by three. I wonder if it’s easier to cut that many students? (In CS, it’s hard, becacuse we want to make sure that they have another place to go. That involves work by the Registrar’s office, by advisors, and by the department chair.)
  • SOC-240-01, Social Movements, cut four students.
  • SOC-360-01, Work in the New Economy, cut nine students. I expect that was a lot of work [10].
  • Only four (4) students were cut from STA-310, Statistical Modeling. I wonder if they have models that determine who to cut.

Yeah, that’s probably enough cuts to consider.

Some Balances

Balances happen most frequently when there are multiple sections of a course with differing enrollments. In CS, we balance courses primarily to give students better experiences or at least more equivalent experiences. You get more attention in a class of fifteen than one of twenty-five. Two classes of twenty are fairer. Balancing can also help make slots available for students who need to add courses late, for students returning from leave, and for first-year students and transfers. I’m also focusing primarily on the balances I can see. I know that CS balanced students from CSC-301 to CSC-341, in part to prevent over-enrollment in the spring CSC-341. Those kinds of things are hard to see.

  • It looks like the four sections of BIO-251, Molcls, Cells, & Orgnsm w/lab were balanced, but the result seems strange. Section one has three slots available. Section two is over-enrolled by eleven students. That’s better than the forty before, but it’s still a lot. Section three has one slot. Section four has three slots. I assume no more balancing could happen.
  • It looks like the four sections of CHM-221, Organic Chemistry I w/lab, were balanced. As I predicted [11], they don’t seem to have cut any students, which means that the sections are all over-enrolled by an average of five students [12]. The labs seem almost perfectly balanced. Thirty-five had to be moved from one section. I feel sorry for the Registrar’s staff who likely had to do the moving.
  • The two sections of CSC-207, OO Prob Slvg, Data Struc/Alg were balanced, with both now exactly at capacity. I’m still puzzled why the afternoon section had such high enrollment, particularly given that the two sections have the same instructor.
  • The two sections of CSC-211, Comp Org/Architecture w/lab were almost balanced. It looks like we wanted to switch one more to the morning section, but the rest of the students had conflicts.
  • The two sections of MAT/STA-335, Probability & Statistics I, were balanced.
  • The two sections of NRS-495, Neuroscience Seminar, were balanced.
  • PHY-232 may be the one course in which the course didn’t need balancing, but the three labs did.
  • The two sections of PHI-102, Symbolic Logic were balanced, as were the two sections of PHI-111, Introduction to Philosophy. If I were more clever, I would find a way to make a joke about philosophy and balance.
  • The four sections of STA-209, Applied Statistics, were balanced. There are five slots left.

Then there are the 100-level courses, which have some slots for intro students.

  • ECN-111, Introduction to Economics, is listed as balanced, with sixty (60) slots available. Interestingly, the most popular section seems to have been cancelled, probably to free that faculty member to teach another course.
  • The two sections of JPN-101, Beginning Japanese I, were balanced, leaving eleven (11) and twelve (12) slots open for first-year students.
  • The three sections of PHY-131, General Physics I w/lab, were balanced, leaving twenty-four (24) slots open for first-year students. The labs were also balanced.
  • Three of the four sections of POL-101, Intro to Political Science, were balanced. One is still open. (The 8:00 a.m. slot, of course.) Seventy (70) slots are available for first-years.

Some Over-Enrollments

A variety of courses remain over-enrolled, some significantly.

  • As I mentioned earlier, section 2 of BIO-251 is over-enrolled by eleven students. I don’t know how that works, since the course has an integrated lab and our lab spaces only hold twenty-four students [14]
  • I see that Katya did not cut any students from AMS/ANT-305-01, Cultural Politics of Fashion, keeping twenty-one students in an upper-level course intended for fifteen.
  • Whoever is teaching ARH-195-01, Innovations in Art Market was generous, it had been over-enrolled by fourteen; it’s still over-enrolled by eight. I wonder what the course will look like without what I recall being a travel component.
  • BIO-365, Microbiology w/lab is significantly overenrolled, with twenty-four students in a course intended for twelve. There were twenty-five students. I hope one voluntarily switched out. I worry about the twenty-four. I see that they ended up separating out the lab and adding another lab section. That helps compensate for the extra burden on the faculty member, but not a lot.
  • Something similar happend with BIO-380, Molecular Biology w/lab. It had been over-enrolled by nineteen students. Now it’s over-enrolled by six, with two labs (one with ten people, one with eight).
  • CSC-161-01, Imperative Prob Solving w/lab, remains over-enrolled by five students. Henry Walker is old school. He won’t cut students if there’s room in the classroom. I’m not sure that’s good for long-term faculty health.
  • ENG-227-01, American Lit Traditions I [15], is over-enrolled by four students. And that’s after cutting three students. I feel sorry for Steve, who is teaching twenty-nine students in a 200-level English class. That seems like way too many.
  • I’m even more worried for Steve because he also has twenty-one students in ENG-330, Studies in American Prose I, which should only have fifteen. One over-enrolled course is hard. Two over-enrolled courses are ….
  • FRN-313-01, Intro French Lit/19 & 20 Cent, is over-enrolled by a whopping eleven (11) students. How do you teach a 300-level French seminar with twenty-six (26) students?
  • HIS-223-01, Hlth & Medicine American Hist, is over-enrolled by seven (7) students, making it a 200-level history course with thirty-two
    1. students. Too many! What’s a nice way to say Don’t be me to a colleague?
  • PHY-335, Electromagnetic Theory, is over-enrolled by six students, with twenty-four rather than eighteen.
  • POL/PST-220, Foundations of Policy Analysis, is over-enrolled by four (4) students. It looks like Doug didn’t cut anyone. (I almost thought that Doug had two courses that were over-enrolled by four students.)
  • PSY-250-01, Health Psychology, is over-enrolled by three (3) students.
  • PSY-349-01, Counseling Psychology w/lab, is over-enrolled by five
    1. students. It feels like twenty students in an upper-level course on counseling will be very different than fifteen.
  • SPN-395-01, ST: Caravans, Gangs, Drugs, is over-enrolled by four (4) students.

I worry about these over-enrolled courses. We choose caps for a reason. Larger classes are not necessarily good for the students, and they represent extra work for the faculty members. At some point, the institution needs to think more carefully about how to deal with these kinds of courses. If it’s once in a while, it’s not an issue. If it’s regular, then something needs to be considered. I expect this kind of planning is a few years down the road, in the post-pandemic days.

Some Closes

We should also look at some courses that were closed. (More precisely, some other courses, since over-enrolled courses are closed, as are cut classes.)

It looks like a lot of introductory courses were closed rather than balanced. The five sections of ANT-104, Anthropological Inquiries, have about eighty-nine (89) slots available. I see that they did not attempt to balance the sections. The four sections of BIO-150, Intro to Biolgcl Inqry w/lab, are closed with seventy-two (72) slots available. The three sections of CHM-129, General Chemistry w/lab, have fifty-one (51) slots available. The three sections of CSC-151, Functional Prob Solving w/lab_, have forty-one (41) slots available [16]. The two sections of EDU-101, Education Princ/Plural Society, have five (5) open slots. It does not look like any attempt was made to balance them. ENG-120, Literary Analysis, has twenty-eight (28) slots available. ENV/SCI-125-01, Intro to Earth Syst Sci w/lab, has five (5) slots available. GWS-111, Intro Gndr, Wmn’s & Sxlty Stud, has fifty-three (53) slots available. I’m surprised that they did not balance the sections; one has six (6) slots, one has nine (9), two have nineteen (19) each. HIS-100-03 is closed, with sixteen (16) slots available. There are sixty-eight (68) additional slots in the other three sections, which are not closed. LIN-114, Intro to General Linguistics, has fifteen (15) slots available. Third-years and seniors are not allowed to preregister for LIN-114. I wonder if they will allow other students into the course. MAT-123, Functions & Differential Calc, is closed with twenty-nine (29) slots available. MAT-131, Calculus I, is closed with about 113 slots available. Is that about the normal state? MAT-133, Calculus II [17] has about 103 slots available, if I count correctly. MUS-100, Introduction to Music Studies, has eleven (11) slots available. PHY-116, Universe & Its Structure, has eleven slots available. PSY-113, Intro to Psychology w/lab, has fifty-six (56) slots available.

There are also a few others not at the introductory level. I probably missed many of them. These are some I thought were interesting, for wahtever reason.

  • ECN-372-01, Sem Economic Development, and ECN-374-01, Sem International Trade, are closed/full.
  • EDU-301-01, Teaching & Tutoring Writing, is closed. I wonder what happens if Tisha needs more writing mentors?
  • ENG-314-01, Milton, is closed, over-enrolled by one. Who knew that Milton was so popular?
  • GLS/JPN-195-01, ST: Japanese Science Fiction, is closed, over-enrolled by one.
  • JPN-331-01, Advanced Japanese I, is closed. I wonder what happens if one or two other students ask to enroll.
  • MATH-321-01, Foundations of Abstract Albegra, is closed with one extra student. Math is pretty full at the 300-level.
  • MUS-201-01, Music, Mind, & Brain, is closed at exactly twenty.
  • PHE-235-01, Psych Foundations of Sport, is also closed at exactly twenty. No need for cuts!
  • PHY-462-01, Advanced Laboratory [18], is over-enrolled by one. Sometimes it’s easier to keep that one extra student than to cut one.
  • POL-255-01, Politics of the New Europe, is closed with twenty-five students. Another one of those magic cases in which exactly the right number of students enrolled.
  • REL-211-01, The Hebrew Bible, is at exactly twenty. No cuts necessary! Divine intervention?
  • REL-295-01, ST: Religion and Food, is also at exactly twenty with no cuts necessary. Dietary intervention?
  • SPN-320-01, Cult of Spanish Speaking World, is closed, over-enrolled by one.

A bunch of PE courses are closed, some over-enrolled. I’m just going to list their names, not their enrollments. PHE-100-18, Beginning Racqueball. PHE-100-19B, Rock Climbing (19A is open). PHE-100-36B, Indoor Cycling Plus Core (there is no 36A). PHE_100-46, Mindfulness and Yoga (the Dean did say that flexibility is core in the coming year). PHE-100-47, Fishing (I didn’t know we had fishing). PHE-100-48, Yoga I (see my comment about the Dean).

Some Additions

At times, we handle over-enrollments by cutting a course in one place and adding one in another.

  • Remember that cut section of Intro Econ? That freed up a faculty member to teach a second section.
  • We seem to have added a second section of Introduction to Shakespeare. Both are over-enrolled, with twenty-five students instead of twenty. That’s great (except for the extra work on the faculty); Shakespeare can be an important part of a liberal education. I don’t know Sherif Abdelkarim well; I wonder what it will feel like to be teaching a course that some students take, in part, because of the instructor’s reputation. I wonder what it will feel like to miss teaching the seminar on Medieval Lit.
  • We now have two sections of MAT-317, a seminar, which previously had twenty-four (24) students and now has two sections of twelve. I’m puzzled that the two sections have different names. One is Numeical Analysis and the other is Advanced Topics in Analysis. How did they decide who got which sections? I see that they freed up a faculty member to teach this by cutting a section of Calc II.
  • A section of PHY-132, General Physics II w/lab was added (at the same time as the other section; do we have two labs for workshop Physics?) But that means that we’ve lost the wonderful Bridges, Towers, and Skyscrapers. So sad.
  • SPN-312, Women & Gender in Spanish Lit, got split into two sections. It looks like the split did not go as well as one would help. One section has nineteen, one has eight.

Some Comments

A few assorted other comments.

  • I’m sad that ENG/GLS-349-01, Medieval Literature, was cut. That seems like an important course.
  • There are a few courses that would normally be on the chopping block: Under six students, not required for the major, not available for first-years. I wonder how much time the Dean had this year to probe for courses to cut and to negotiate about those cuts. Since it has only happened to CS once in memory [19], I don’t know how all those decisions are made and what the implications are. I also know that some numbers are misleading. For example, CSC 326 normally only has only one or two students in each section, but it provides no teaching credit and those students participate in CSC 324, just with somewhat different assignments and expectations..
  • I don’t understand what’s happening with HIS-100. One section is closed, with sixteen slots open. The other three sections are open (they do have more slots available). (Followup: I am told that the goal is to keep them balanced, but without moving students around. Closing the sections with higher enrollers helps.)
  • It’s rare that there are slots left in MAT-115, Linear Algebra, and a section of MAT-218, Topics in Discrete Mathematics. But there are this fall. Cool! (It’s not like there are a lot, but there are a few, which allows people to shift a bit.)
  • I find it interesting to see which 100-level courses get balanced, which just get closed, and which are left open. I didn’t try to catch all of the 100-level open courses, but they include ARH-103, Intro to Art History (31 slots), CHI-101, Beginning Chinese I (24 slots), REL-101, Stdying Rel: Judaism & Chrstnty (25 slots), REL-103, Stdying Religion: Middle East (24 slots), RUS-101, Beginning Russian I (8 slots), SOC-111, Introduction to Sociology (83 slots), SPN-105, Introduction Spanish Lang I (32 slots), and many others.

[1] Okay, it’s not that much work. And I could probably write a program to do it. But I don’t feel like programming.

[2] I’m just using the title from the online schedule. I’m sure it was spelled out in the original title.

[3] Although not as much as in past semesters.

[4] It sucks even more to be that student [5].

[5] It also sucks to be that student’s advisor, who provides support and who helps them find an alternative.

[6] No, not microsoft teams [7].

[7] That was intended as a joke. Don’t worry if you didn’t get it.

[8] I realize the repetition of permit is annoying. I am not feeling up to coming up with a better word.

[9] That assumes that I will still teach TEC-154 in the spring. It feels like many things are left up in the air right now.

[10] Ha ha.

[11] Or as I recall predicting.

[12] Should I have put the course in the over-enrolled category?

[14] Will they even hold 24 as we institute social distancing in lab? That’s a question for another day (and another person).

[15] Why Lit Traditions rather than Literary Trads or even Lit Trads?

[16] For once, we did not balance the three sections. The enrollments were not different enough to warrant disrupting students.

[17] I do not know why Calculus II is not numbered as MAT-132.

[18] I always thought it was Ad Lab, or perhaps Add Lab.

[19] A long time ago, back when we were on the second floor. It was not a good decision; it caused hard feelings for years to follow.

Version 1.0 released 2020-05-11.

Version 1.1.1 of 2020-05-12.