State and university budget worries are in the air. So far at Baa Ram U., we haven’t been told exactly how bad it will be, but there are committees currently contemplating a salary cut for faculty. No one is talking about firing adjuncts and non tenure-track faculty and raising everyone else’s teaching loads, like they are at some universities. (Of course, this economic depression may drive students away from college, which will make teaching load increases pointless.) The happy phrase that I’ve heard lately is that the strategy will be to cut “programs, not people,” which seems humane, fair, and reasonable.
On the question of raising teaching loads: my upper-level classes are officially capped at 40, but I have now only 25 students in my upper-level course this term. That’s about par for me, and I chalk it up to the fact that I have weekly reading and writing assignments, the first of which is due on the second day of class. When I teach the surveys, which are capped at 123, I usually have only 90-100 students who finish the course. (And among them, about 20% get Ds or Fs, so I wonder why they show up for the final exam at all.) I’ve discovered recently that lots of us regular faculty have no more than 25-35 students in our capped-at-40 classes, probably because their syllabi look like mine. If the university decides that it needs more courses, I would hope they’d take a look at all of those seats a-wasting in our classes. The problem seems to be that 30-35% of our students don’t want to work all that hard or show up to class, both of which are required in my classes.
Do your courses fill and stay filled? (I’ve heard from friends at other universities that students register for more courses than they actually take, so that they can stay eligible for financial aid. This seems like a really stupid plan–incurring debt for courses that you don’t complete–but then Historiann has never understood why people rack up credit card debt either.) Could one benefit of a depression be that those students who have the luxury of remaining in college might actually buckle down and get ‘er done?