September 23, 2008

Over-Enrolled Freshmen Complain

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2008 marked one of the largest graduating high school classes in recent years, many colleges around the country, including Cornell, have over-enrolled students in their freshmen classes.
“As of mid-July, 3,181 first-year students indicated their intent to enroll in the Class of 2012; the target class size was 3,050,” Doris Davis, associate provost of admissions and enrollment, stated in an e-mail.
With 131 more freshmen than expected, students and administration are divided on the impact the class will have on the University. One complaint among freshmen is the lack of housing accommodations. Some students who did not request to live in program houses were placed there because of a shortage of rooms on North Campus. [img_assist|nid=32003|title=Faces in the crowd|desc=Members of this year’s freshmen class on North Campus class during last spring’s Cornell Days.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
One freshman boy living in a program house lamented over the fact that he is missing out on dorm social life with people who share his interests. Being placed in a program house, he said, means that he lives with people who have extreme views.
“We don’t all eat cake at 2 a.m. together when someone has a birthday like all of the other traditional freshmen dorms do,” he added.
However, with the exception of various transfer students who had to live in the High Rise lounges, Cornell has not acknowledged that there is a housing shortage this year.
Barbara Romano, the director of Conference Services, claims, “We have rooms that we refer to as swing rooms; if it’s a smaller class we use them as doubles, but we can also use them as triples to accommodate class size.”
But the “swing rooms” do not appear satisfactory to all students.
Chris Wroblewski ’12 said, “It’s unfortunate that Cornell forced me into a living condition where I basically sleep on top of two people and it costs the same as a single — I think we should at least get a discount in prices.”
Additionally, because of the number of spots open in certain classes, many freshmen are not able to take courses that are prerequisites for their majors this semester. Emma Ricardi ’12, a natural resources major, was pre-enrolled in her biology class, but the mandatory laboratory for the class was full.
“The best choice they could offer me was to take the lab on Saturday mornings from nine to 12. What college student is ever going to want to do that?” said Ricardi, who now has to take the class as a sophomore, which will make it harder to fill her requirements.
But professors of lecture classes and small seminars do not seem to feel the impact of the larger class of 2012. Prof. Glenn Altschuler, American studies, said that he does not necessarily feel the pressure of these extra students in lecture classes due to the classes’ already large sizes.
Prof. Katy Gottschalk, director of First Year Writing Seminars, added that writing seminars are not larger than usual. She stated in an e-mail, “The University firmly believes in the importance of the First-Year Writing Seminar experience, and so when the freshman class is unexpectedly large, the Knight Institute offers additional sections of the seminars. There is, therefore, no effect on the size of seminars or on the ability of students to enroll in them.”
Additionally, Gottschalk said that there was no trouble finding extra teachers for the courses and that “excellent people were available.”
Eating is another aspect of college life that has to be considered with an increase in class size. However, with 31 different places to eat around campus, it is not surprising that there seems to be little trouble in the dining halls.
Richard Anderson, general manager for Residential Dining and Retail Store Operations, insisted that Cornell was well equipped for this influx of students, saying, “It really doesn’t affect us. It takes a certain amount of staff to do what we do, and with that staff in place, there has been almost no increase in the work to be done.”
Furthermore, defending Cornell’s reputation as one of the “top ten colleges and universities for food quality,” Anderson said, “there has been no issue with the quality. We are used to producing quality as well as quantity [with our] food.”
Other colleges’ dining facilities have used different methods to handle over-enrollment. For example, Warren Wilson College in North Carolina asked their faculty to avoid the cafeterias during peak lunch times due to excessively long lines.
Davis noted in an e-mail, “We do not necessarily view over-enrollment as a problem. From time to time, we may exceed the enrollment target.”