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Preregistration for Fall 2021 (#1136)

Topics/tags: Registration, Grinnell, assorted data, rambly, long

Warning! As is normally the case for my not-so-legendary preregistration musings, this musing has received almost no editing or rewriting. Writing what you see already took too much of my life.

It’s that time of the semester again! Or at least it would be that time of the semester if we were still in semesters rather than the life-consuming terms that we switched to for the pandemic. That’s right, preregistration at Grinnell just finished! Yay!

As an advisor, I found this preregistration period particularly hard; I’m not sure why, but about five of my advisees didn’t respond to repeated requests for meetings, which meant that I was still working on registration issues after 5 p.m. on the last night of registration [1]. I suppose I could have been a bit more proactive, but, well, I’m trying to cut down on how much extra work I’m doing.

But you’re not here to read about my advising. You’re here to read about what the results of preregistration looked like this year and my take on those results. I’m still not sure why people find this form of musing interesting, but they do.

If you haven’t read about Grinnell’s strange registration system before, well, this isn’t the place to learn about it. You can go look for an earlier musing about it. The short version is that students first enroll in classes with no cap [2], then we look at who has enrolled, and then we cut students from some classes and balance them in other multi-section classes. The students who are cut then have to find other classes to take, which can be hard because most of the popular classes are closed. It may sound harsh, but I’m still not sure that there’s a better system. Class-year-priority has many problems; I’m pretty sure that few of the core courses in CS would be open to second-year students if we used that. I like the idea of a fancy bidding system for courses, but that probably advantages the quantitative students in the system.

Before I go much further, I have two short notes. First, I have to congratulate Carolyn Herbst Lewis on what might be the most over-enrolled course I’ve seen, at least by ratios. She has 57 [3] folks signed up for HIS-195-01, ST: Comparative Herbalism, with an intended course capacity of 10. That’s nearly a 6:1 ratio. I’m also looking at the number at 6:20 p.m. on Friday. There’s a chance it could get higher when registration closes at midnight [4].

Second, I must note that one of the popular characters in this musing does not appear in the main narrative. John Garrison, Professor of English and expert on reformed melted silica, is teaching at the Newbury library this fall and/or taking advantage of his Guggenheim Fellowship. Congratulations Professor Garrison!

I think this fall will be somewhat complex. We have students returning from leave. We have students who are planning to go abroad in the fall who have nonetheless been advised to register for fall classes at Grinnell in case those plans fall through. At least in CS, students have found ways to do interesting [5] things with terms, such as taking a two-course sequence in two successive terms, which let them do the whole introductory sequence in one year. So, while this preregistration period isn’t as crazy as, say, last semester’s, it’s still not back to things as normal.

Okay, where to go from there? I think I’ll start with my department. For those who don’t want to read about my department, I’ve added convenient section headings to allow you to jump ahead to the next topic.

Computer science

We have 43 returning students pre-enrolled in CSC-151 and 72 slots total. We need more than 29 slots for incoming first-years, so we’ll be cutting some of those students. I think we planned to permit up to 24 returning students. Apologies to those who will be cut! Why don’t we follow the lead of, say, Linguistics and GWSS and just prevent third-year students and seniors from preregistering? Because there are some times in which such students can stay. We’ll see what happens.

CSC-161, Imperative Problem Solving, has three slots open out of the 48 total. That’s not bad. I’m surprised to see the morning session (8:30 a.m. to 9:50 a.m.) is more popular than the afternoon session (1:00 p.m. to 2:20 p.m.) We’ll probably balance the two sections.

CSC-207, Object-Oriented Problem Solving, Data Structures, and Algorithms [6] has 22/24 slots filled in one section and 25/24 in the other. In this case, the morning section (10:00 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.) is the one that has more slots available. In any case, I assume we’ll be able to balance the two sections.

CSC-208, Discrete Structures, has one slot available [7]. That’s about typical. I’m glad we don’t have to worry about cutting students from that section.

CSC-213, Operating Systems and Parallel Algorithms, has 27/24 in the 8:00 a.m. to 9:50 a.m. section and 20/24 in the 2:00 p.m. to 3:50 p.m. section. Once again, I’m surprised that the morning section is more popular. And, once again, I’m sure we’ll be able to balance. I’m not used to seeing open space in CSC-213. I wonder if some folks neglected to pre-register. I do see that two registered after 5 p.m. on Friday.

CSC-281, Learning from CS Alumni, has only five students enrolled. That makes me sad. I think it’s a valuable class; I wouldn’t teach it otherwise. And multiple students told me last year that it was among the most valuable classes they’ve taken at Grinnell. Perhaps I should have advertised it more. I’m not sure what happens to four-person one-credit classes. If the Dean decides we should cancel it, that’s okay with me. Arranging all the visits is hard. But I do like seeing the alums.

CSC-301, Analysis of Algorithms, has 33/20 students in the TuTh section and 7/20 students in the MWF section. I don’t know whether we’ll be able to balance the two sections, but I hope we will. However, I know that when I was working with my advisees, I had a surprising number who could not fit the MWF class in their schedule. I suppose whoever is dealing with our cuts, closes, and balances will have to ask the Registrar to check that issue before dealing with the cuts.

It is rare that I feel that I can make additional comments when two sections are that imbalanced. But, hey, I’m teaching the MWF section, so anything goes. Why do so many more students want to take Prof. Eikmeier’s section than mine? I assume that the course time is part of it. But I also know who I would choose if I had to decide between taking algorithms from the young, mathematically inclined, creative, and engaged teacher or the old, curmudgeonly, incredibly sarcastic, and often tangential teacher who sometimes forgets to get grading done promptly. That’s not to say that I don’t think I’ll do a great job with Algorithms, nor that students won’t appreciate it. Rather, I know that my junior colleague is awesome, and I can understand why students would prefer to take a class from her.

On to CSC-324, Software Design and Development. We have 27/16 students in the morning section and 20/16 in the afternoon section. That looks like 15 students who we will have to cut. But things aren’t quite that bad. Only two students have enrolled in CSC-326, and the two courses are designed to total twenty. So we’ll only have to cut nine. That’s nine more than I’d like to cut, but there will be other opportunities for them.

CSC-341, Automata, Formal Languages, and Computational Complexity [8] has 34 students enrolled in twenty seats. We’ll have to cut a lot of them. And, as the numbers above suggest, there’s not anywhere else obvious for them to go. I hope we’ll be able to keep all of the majors for whom this is the only CS course they are taking this fall. And I’m comforted to know that we have two sections of CSC-341 planned for the spring.

CSC-395, ST: Human-Centered Programming has fourteen students enrolled and a capacity of twenty. I think it’s a cool topic. But I also like that we have a separate HCI class that doesn’t have a CS prerequisite.

Well, that’s it for CS. On to the next topic. Let’s see what classes have high enrollments, by which I mean more students enrolled than the class capacity, at least as of Friday evening.

Other significantly over-enrolled classes

As is always the case, Monessa Cummins’ CLS/HIS-255-01, History of Ancient Greece is over-enrolled, this time by sixteen students [9]. And, as always, David Campbell’s ENV-145-01, _Nations and the Global Environment is over-enrolled, this time by nineteen students [10].

You may recall that Carolyn Herbst Lewis’ Comparative Herbalism is incredibly overloaded. Another Lewis, Abram Lewis [11], has twenty-six students enrolled in GWS-395-01, ST: Sex & Enchantment, with a cap of fifteen. It’s hard to teach upper-level seminars with more than fifteen students. While it’s wonderful to see so many students enrolled in the course, I expect GWSS [12] will have to cut.

GWS special topics courses are clearly popular. Lesley Delmenico’s GWS-195-01, ST: Sexwork in the City, has twenty-nine students enrolled and a cap of fifteen. There are enough students enrolled for another section. And Robert Robinson’s GWS/EDU-295-01, Black Queer Lives and Pedagogy, has twenty-one students enrolled with a cap of twelve. I wonder how Robinson will prioritize between GWS and Education students [14].

I don’t have any other particular courses to look at at the moment, so I’ll move on to the alphabetical list.

There are fifty students pre-enrolled in ANT-210-01, Illness, Healing and Culture. The course has a capacity of 20. That’s a lot of students to drop. And since it’s a low-200 anthropology course, I expect that a lot of those students are second-years. I wonder how they decide who to keep. Perhaps it’s random. There also don’t seem to be thirty open spaces in the other 200-level anthro courses, but there are close to that many. I wonder if the dropped will switch to other courses in anthropology, or whether it’s a particular interest in the topic.

As is always the case, most sections of ART-111 are over-enrolled. There is one exception, 8:00 to 10:50 a.m. MW is not a popular time. I’m not surprised. Mornings on MWF are a popular time for other classes. The other three sections are over-enrolled by twenty-seven students. I think that’s a bit less than normal, but I also think that we usually offer fewer than four sections. Still, there are enough enrollments to add an extra section, and maybe two, if the College would pay someone to teach one. And it seems like we should have some slots available for incoming first-years. Maybe our new president will understand the need for more Studio faculty.

The 200-level Studio courses are all over-enrolled, with 26/15 in Print Media, 16/15 in Painting (at that awful 8:00-10:50 a.m. MW time), 19/15 in Sculpture, and 26/15 in Fundamentals of Video Production. I’m guessing that the prospective studio majors get priority. I feel bad for my advisees who are hoping to be in Print Media.

I wasn’t planning to mention courses that were only over-enrolled by a few students, but I see that ART-315-01, Adv Studio: Contemporary Practices has fifteen students in a twelve-person-capacity course. I wonder what they do about that. I’m pretty sure that the majority of people in that course are Studio Art majors and the others are close enough that it’s worth keeping them there.

BIO-251, Molecules, Cells, and Organisms, has almost the right number of seats, just the wrong distribution. Section one is over-enrolled by twenty-seven students. Sections two and three each have room for thirteen, and section four has room for six. But it can be hard to schedule the right section, given that there’s time for both class and lab. Let’s hope that the sections can be balanced.

As is often the case, most of the 300-level Biology classes are all over-enrolled. 19/12 in BIO-343-01, Comparative Vertebrate Morphology, 28/12 in BIO-365-01, Microbiology, 18/12 in BIO-368-01, _Ecology, and 24/18 in BIO-380-01, Molecular Biology. It looks like there’s a bit of room in BIO-395-01, ST: Entomology. Who doesn’t want to study bugs? In any case, I wonder what Bio is going to do. Presumably, most of the students in 300-level courses are there because they need the course for the major. They seem to manage to figure it out each year, but it feels like they shouldn’t have to.

CHM-221, Organic Chemistry I, BIO-251’s favorite partner, has a similar strange distribution of students. Section 4 is over-enrolled by thirty-nine students But there are thirteen open slots in section 1, eleven in section 2, and eleven in section 3. That should cover almost all the over-enrolled students. I hope they can balance the sections!

The next over-enrolled course in Chemistry CHM-363, Physical Chemistry I, may be more problematic. It’s over-enrolled by twenty-one students. I wonder if Chem can add another section. I don’t suppose the Dean can come back and teach it.

EDU-101-01, Educational Principles in a Pluralistic Society, is over-enrolled by eleven students. Fortunately, there are ten slots available in section 2. I assume that will be balanced.

HIS-266-01, History of the Modern Middle East, has thirty-five students enrolled and a cap of twenty-five. It’s listed as Staff [17]. I wonder who that will be.

Ed Cohn’s HIS-284-01, Surveillance Modern History, has forty-five students pre-enrolled and a cap of 25. I find myself wondering about the title. I assumed there’s a longer one, such as Surveillance in Modern History or Surveillance* a* Modern History. But there doesn’t seem to be. Anyway, as technology grows the surveillance state, I’m sure that this is a topic of great interest to our students. I doubt that they’ll have Ed teach a second section.

MAT-316-01, Foundations of Analysis, is over-enrolled by twelve students. I assume those are all likely math majors. There’s does not seem to be room for them in the other core 300-level class, MAT-321-01 Foundations of Abstract Algebra. I wonder what Mathematics and Statistics will do with those students. Does something get cut to permit another section? If so, what?

As often seems to be the case, Peter Hanson’s Political Science courses seem to be enrolled, almost certainly because of the fascinating political situations we’ve seen in the U.S. in the past few years. POL-216-01, Politics of Congress, is over-enrolled by only five students, but POL-219-01, Constitutional Law & Politics, is over-enrolled by fourteen. Since the Political Science major requires at least one 200-level course in American Politics, I wonder how they choose which students to keep.

Only one Psychology class seems to be significantly over-enrolled, PSY-246-01, Brain and Behavior, with 38/25 slots occupied. I assume some of those students can be shifted to other sections.

SOC-240, Social Movements is over-enrolled by 10, with 32/22 slots occupied.

Courses to take

As always, I see many courses that I’d love to be able to take. Shakespeare is always on my list. And before it became John Garrison’s course, I kept saying I wanted to take it from Erik Simpson. It’d nice to see that Erik is teaching it this year.

I miss taking film classes, and I know that the discipline of Film Studies has changed significantly since I took all those classes with Gerald Mast in the mid-1980s. So Mina Nikolopoulou’s GWS-295, Film Genres, would be great to be able to take [16].

As long as I’m thinking about GWS-prefix courses, I must admit that although I have a lot of informal experience thinking about those issues, I am not informed enough on the core literature of GWSS, so GWS-111, Introduction to Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies, would be good for me to take.

I know that making art brings me joy and challenges me to think in new and different ways, so it would be fun to take another Studio Art class. But perhaps a different kind of creative activity would be better for me. And music lessons are free [18]. But what to take? I wonder if could take Jazz Bass. Harpsichord would also be nice. Or maybe a return to Cello, which I haven’t played for 40+ years. Or I could take the new MUS-100-01, Introduction to Music Studies, which would permit me to better understand my children’s conversations. LIN-114-01, Introduction to General Linguistics, would also help me better understand my children. Maybe I should consider that. But LIN-114 is only open to first-years and second-years, so I’m probably not eligible.

Carolyn Herbst Lewis’s HIS-100-02, Feminist Killjoys of US History has such a great title.

Jin Feng is teaching EAS-195-01, EAS Gateway: Food of East Asia. She’s written a book on the topic and gave a great Scholars’ Convo on the topic. It would be fun to take the course. But Jin is going to be our Associate Dean next year, what is she doing teaching any class?

Karla Erickson is teaching SOC-360-01, Work in the New Economy. Work is core to Karla’s research, and I learn something new every time I talk to Karla, so I’d love to take that class. I wonder if I could get her to waive the prerequisites.

John Whittaker is teaching ANT-195-01, ST: Prehistoric Technologies. I’ve loved having John visit my TEC-154 when I’ve taught it. I know that I’m running out of time to sit in one of his classes. This two-credit class would be high on my list.

I’m a computer scientist because I love CS. So it would be fund to take a new CS course. Peter-Michael Osera’s CSC-395-01, ST: Human-centered Programming, sounds like a lot of fun. It covers two things I love, programming languages and HCI, and I know PM takes interesting perspectives on topics.

I mentioned that I always learn things from Karla. I’ve also learned so much from Katya Gibel Mevorach over the years. I need to fit in Professor Katya’s AMS/ANT-235, Anthropology of American Culture.

That reminds me of the so many faculty who fit into the lists of people my students say great things about and people I respect greatly. I want to take classes from some of my older colleagues [19]. I want to take classes from some of those new young exciting folks who have joined Grinnell in recent years. And yes, I want to take courses from the many awesome people who fall in between those two groups. I think Karla calls them mid-career faculty [20].

I mustn’t forget a wellness class. Unfortunately, while Tennis is among my favorite sports to play, my joints probably can’t handle it anymore. Maybe PHE-100-22, Swimming Technique, PHE-100-24, Beginning Swimming, or PHE-100-28, Water Aerobics. I wonder what the difference between the two swimming classes is [21].

Unfortunately, I shouldn’t be adding things to my plate in my post-heart-attack year. And, well, I teach from 8:30–10:00 a.m. MWF, observe peers from 10:00–11:20, and teach again from 2:30–3:50 p.m.; there isn’t much free time in my schedule. So I must admit these are fantasies rather than realities. But I always have SFS and retirement to look forward to for taking courses, right?

Assorted other comments

I see that Studio Art has gone back to two three-hour classes per week. That means that in semesters in which people are teaching three courses, they are in class for eighteen hours per week. That doesn’t leave much time for anything else, particularly since preparing art labs is consumes a lot of time. I extend my sympathy to my colleagues in Studio Art. Maybe our new president will acknowledge the workload.

It’s nice to see that MAT-218, Elementary Number Theory, is not over-enrolled. That’s been an issue in past terms. Is it a sign that we’ll have fewer Mathematics majors? Fewer CS majors? Is it a side effect of this year’s strange Terms and the smaller-than-normal first-year class. I’m not sure.

I’m surprised to see a decent amount of space available in our statistics courses. There are twenty-eight slots available between the four sections of STA-209, Applied Statistics, and eighteen between the two sections of STA-230, Introduction to Data Science. Is that something similar to what I have suggested with MAT-218? I’m not sure. It feels a bit to me like numbers are down across the board.

I wish more students were enrolled in Belinda Backous’ ASC-101, Scholar’s Seminar [22]. It’s an awesomely helpful class, at least as I hear from my students. And Belinda is awesome. Encourage your students, particularly your early-career students, to take it!

I’m intrigued by course sizes. Why are some 200-level seminars capped at twelve while 300-level seminars get capped at fifteen, even in the same department. Why do some people choose an odd number (e.g., 25) and others choose an even number (e.g. 24)? What about those somewhat odd even numbers, like 22 [23]? I know that we look for even numbers of students in CS courses because it makes it easier to set up pairs. When I teach Tutorial, I hope for exactly twelve because it allows me to break up students in so many different ways: six groups of two, four groups of three, three groups of four, two groups of six [24].

I feel like I’m getting old. There are so many names on the list I don’t recognize, even in the sciences. I suppose that’s because we have been remote. Chatting in the hallway, at the Science Teaching and Learning Group, and elsewhere, is where we meet each other.

That’s about all I have for right now. If I had more energy, I’d look to see what the numbers looked like in comparing this year to last year. But I don’t have that much energy or enthusiasm. So, take what you will from all of these random comments. And maybe spend a few minutes with the schedule yourself. You can find it online at [25].

Oh, that does bring up a question. How will I get the full list of available classes when ITS gets rid of I guess that’s a question for another day. My therapist says that I shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about the future.

[1] I wrote that at about 6 p.m. on Friday. One of my advisees did not express preferences until about 10 p.m. And yes, I managed to get them registered.

[2] Well, the system does seem to cap at 100.

[3] Heinz!

[4] The class was at 60 at the close of prereg.

[5] The scare quotes and the mediocre choice of words are intentional.

[6] We like long course names.

[7] At 5:00 p.m. on Friday, it had three slots left. I’m amazed at how many students register at the last possible minute.

[8] Aka Theory.

[9] 41/25.

[10] 59/40.

[11] No relation, at least not as far as I know.

[12] You may wonder why it’s sometimes GWS and sometimes GWSS. The major is Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies, which is GWSS. But it drops to just GWS for the three-letter course abbreviations [15].

[14] Given that there’s no Education major, I’m not even sure how they decide who is a member of the department.

[15] Surprisingly, the bookstore uses different four-letter abbrevs.

[16] I’m also glad to see that Mina is returning to Grinnell for another year.

[17] Or, as one of my advisees said, Professor Staff.

[18] Well, they are free if we’re pretending that I’m a student.

[19] The number of older colleagues seems to be decreasing.

[20] I’m working on being late-career dead wood.

[21] Yes, I know, I could look it up. But I’m not sure where. The PHE-100 courses have a common description in the College Catalog. The PHE-100 courses have a common description in the soon-to-be-retired Search Schedule of Courses. The PHE-100 courses have a common description on the Self-Service list of courses. Why can’t the details be easier to find. In any case, I’m pretty sure that Swimming Technique is the more advanced course, which makes me sad because it’s the PE course I could most likely fit into my real schedule.

[22] Shouldn’t that be Scholars’ Seminar?

[23] In this case, by odd, I mean Uncommon. As far as I can tell, only Philosophy and Sociology use a cap of 22 for four-credit classes.

[24] Also twelve groups of one and one group of twelve, but, well, I’m not sure we want to call those groups.

[25] Access to that page is limited to those with Grinnell accounts.

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