After students circulated a petition asking for an increase in Keck Science Department funding, deans of faculty from the 3C’s decided to meet to discuss the issue in the coming weeks. Students from Scripps, Pitzer, and Claremont McKenna College signed the petition in response to the lack of upper level science courses.
Alyssa Mathew-Joseph SC ‘16, one of the students who started the petition, said this has been an issue for years now.
“The motivation behind the petition is the inability of many Keck students to register for the classes they need for their majors or their pre-health, pre-dental, pre-vet career plan,” Mathew-Joseph said. “This issue has recently escalated with increasing class sizes and only one section of each upper-division science course being offered.”
Biochemistry is one of the most requested courses by students, primarily because most pre-medical career plans and science degree plans require the class. Mathew-Joseph, who submitted the petition last Wednesday, said many students acknowledged the need for the petition once it began circulating.
“I felt the need to do this for a while,” she said, “but it really got to me when I recently registered for fall classes and was unable to enroll in any of the science courses I needed for my academic plan. Even prior to registering, I was told by my academic advisor, Prof. Mary Hatcher-Skeers, that it was a sure bet that I wouldn’t get into Biochemistry.”
The petition, which has over a hundred signatures, will be discussed by David Hansen, the Dean of Keck Science, along with the deans of faculty from the 3C’s. Hansen said the petition is misleading because the problem cannot be instantly solved simply with more funding. In the short term, the department is hiring more visiting faculty, which Hansen calls an “immediate solution.” However, he said there is a need for additional lab space and office space, and creating infrastructure takes more time.
“Enrollment in the [Keck] department this year is up 12 percent over last year,” Hansen said. “We find ourselves with large increases in enrollment and we are working to address the issue. Still, we can’t guarantee every student will get into every class they want. This semester we added another lab section of Cell Biology, doubling the size of the class, and we may be able to do the same in the fall. We also just added 10-12 students to our Biochemistry course after pre-registration. Nonetheless, it is important to note that when we opened the additional lab section of Cell this semester, only 8 of the 18 additional slots actually filled. Similarly, last spring the enrollment in Molecular Biology was only 9 students, less than half of the cap.”
A dual Biology-Spanish major, Karissa Muñoz CMC ’16 said another problem is not only the lack of science courses, but the overlapping of them, which leads to scheduling problems. She said if she were unable to enroll in the needed science courses, she might have to change her major.
“I would either have to overload a couple semesters or drop my dual in Spanish,” Muñoz said. “However, I feel strongly about my Spanish studies as well and I would hate to have to sacrifice that because I couldn’t get the science classes I needed.”
Hansen said he wants students to know that throughout the year the Keck Science Presidents and Deans have been discussing the issue of the large enrollments at essentially every one of their monthly meetings and that long-term solutions are being carefully analyzed.
Hansen said he also wants to reassure students that the department is doing its best to find solutions for the fall.
“Let the dust settle after pre-registration,” he said. “Let’s see where things stand in September. We simply don’t yet have an accurate handle on the exact demand for courses in the fall. It will take a little while to sort things out—for example, many students perm request into multiple science classes hoping to only be accepted into one. This causes a type of perm request inflation that clouds the actual demand for classes. The department needs some time to determine the extent of the problem and to implement the best solutions.”