A troubling shortage

The political science department at Swarthmore does not have enough professors to adequately handle the growing number of students who want to take their classes.

Molly Petchenik addressed this issue in her Jan. 30 Phoenix op-ed entitled, “ Not enough professors to go around,” in which she noted the difficulty certain departments were having accommodating students’ preferred courses. Since the op-ed was published, the department has announced that another professor will be on leave fall 2015 and spring 2016.

This means that of the department’s nine tenured or tenure-track professors, three we be on leave for fall 2015, and four will be on leave for spring 2016. The department can (and has) hired temporary help, but given that fifty-nine sophomores alone signed up for honors majors, honors minors and regular majors this spring, the students will still doubtlessly be overbooked.

The problem will be particularly acute for honors majors. There will be a meager three honors seminars offered for spring 2016, compared to the six being offered this spring.

This is not entirely the department’s fault. The department has been asking the college for an additional, much needed tenure-track position for some time.

But the department could have done a better job of organizing class schedules and leave schedules for the professors that it does have.

At the very least, the department ought to have notified students earlier. Even though Professor Aysa Kaya’s leave has been scheduled for a long time, students involved in the department were only notified about it 11 days ago, meaning that her planned classes remained listed on the department’s website while they were preparing to declare majors, minors, and generally plan the remainder of their academic careers.

As the college reduces professors’ course load from three classes one semester and two the other to two classes per semester (3-2 to 2-2) while simultaneously growing the size of the student body, it must work to minimize and alleviate growing pains.

Here, it could have done better.

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