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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Increased Student Enrollment Congests Classes

    This year, Stony Brook received a record number of applicants. Although student enrollment figures have been constant for the past few years, many students are finding themselves locked out from classes. One problem many departments cited were the lack of personnel as an increasing number of students are choosing biology courses.

    ‘The number of graduate students has decreased and therefore the number of TAs that becomes available has decreased,’ said Eugene Katz, director of undergraduate biology, ‘the trend in the full-time faculty has been down, although this year they are trying to reverse that trend.’

    ‘In 2002, 744 students showed an interest in majoring in biology, and in 2006 the number has become 1,819,’ Katz said. ‘The pressure on introductory courses is immense and it just flows over to the physics department, the chemistry department, and even the math department because all biology majors are required to take those courses.’

    Certain pre-medical courses have been modifying class scheduling to accommodate the needs of the students. The introductory biology lecture classes consist of a separate lecture and lab component. Compared with previous years of three semesters of biology with lecture, students need to enroll in three semesters of biology lecture and a year of lab.

    ‘Bio 204 and Bio 205 [lab classes] are designed as a one year course to develop the technical and thinking skills so that students are better prepared for upper division classes and research,’ Katz said, ‘we currently have 1,022 students signed up for the class and we can accommodate about 1,600.’

    Although laboratory classes have increased their capacity, there is still not enough space for the introductory biology lecture classes. ‘There’s nothing larger than Javits 100 and even then we need to use overflow rooms,’ Katz said.

    The chemistry department has faced similar problems. General Chemistry Laboratory is increasingly closed out, forcing many to enroll in winter and summer sessions for the class. ‘When you enroll 200 people in the winter, that’s just 200 more people down the line to sign up in the spring,’ said Professor of Chemistry Robert Schneider.

    In addition to offering off semester classes, six additional ‘half lab’ sections are being introduced, to accommodate 12 students per lab room rather than the normal 24 student capacity. ‘There will be six undergraduate TAs handling these sections, where they will be doing the job of full graduate students,’ Schneider said.

    An increased demand for Organic Chemistry has led to three sections this year, one of which will be taught by a different professor than the other two sections. ‘This becomes a problem when it comes to testing,’ said Professor of Chemistry Frank Fowler, who will be teaching two of the sections.

    In the physics department, there are now around twice as many students taking the physics course required for pre-medical majors. ‘We’ve opened up five new labs to give everyone a seat but it’s difficult to schedule at times when TAs don’t have graduate courses being offered,’ said Pam Burris, assistant to the chairperson of the physics and astronomy department.

    Until two years ago, two physics lecture sections were taught at Harriman Hall, and then a third section was opened up for a semester.

    ‘Faculty volunteered to teach for the good of the students,’ said Peter Koch, chairperson of the physics and astronomy department, ‘but we just couldn’t continue to do this.’ Starting last year, physics has been held at the Union auditorium, since it was refurbished with blackboards over last summer. The larger rooms enable more students to enroll.

    Other departments have complained about the lack of equipment such as blackboards for instructors to use. ‘There’s been a lot of pressure on the math department and we do our best not to close out classes,’ said Scott Sutherland, undergraduate director in mathematics, ‘but there is a scramble to find suitable class space since we need huge chalkboards and can’t use some places because of that.’

    Freshman enrollment has increased in past years, but the size of the incoming class this year will be around the same as last year with 2,700 students. Since 2001, the incoming freshman class size has increased by about 500 students. The number of full-time continuing undergraduate students has also increased by around 600 students; less people are transferring or dropping out. The number of transfer students has remained steady over the past years. Overall, the total number of undergraduates has increased by 922 students over the past five years.

    ‘10,000 of the applicants were actually accepted into Stony Brook [this year], with a 99% accuracy of around 2,700 students actually coming,’ said Matthew Whelan, Assistant Provost for Admissions and Financial Aid, ‘there are many people who don’t show up and therefore we get exact numbers until about fifteen days into the semester.’

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