This semester, 10 to 12 classes were canceled, a number higher than usual, according to Mills College Vice Provost Andrew Workman.
Mejin Leechor, a first year Master’s student in Public Policy, received an e-mail at the end of the first week of classes informing her that one of her classes, Health Economics, would no longer be offered this spring.
“I thought that class would of been an excellent real-world application of my introductory economics courses,” said Leechor.
Assistant Professor of Economics, Eirik Evenhouse, had his Health Economics class canceled after its first meeting because only four students were enrolled, an unprecedented low.
Students may be concerned that Mills – known for its small class sizes and intimate campus community – is undergoing a shift.
The College administration, however, said each semester some classes are canceled due to under-enrollment or a professor’s personal reasons.
Tonianne Nemeth, Executive Assistant to the English Department, said that although Juliana Spahr’s Systematic Theories of Literature and a couple sections of English 001 were dropped, she doesn’t see a problem this semester.
“We work hard on our staffing and scheduling to ensure that we have the right line-up of courses for our students,” said Nemeth.
This year’s first year class is smaller than that in previous years, which explains under-enrollment in English 001, a first year requirement.
Some of the other classes that were canceled include: Science, Technology, and Public Policy, Migration and the Economy, Chinese Film in the 20th Century, African-American Music, and one section of Education 380. In addition, Women and the Law was canceled due to the professor’s personal reasons.
According to Workman, most of the courses that were canceled were because of under enrollment.
Meanwhile, according to Workman, retention rates are up, as are the numbers of new transfer students and graduate students – all of which are common during a recession.
Though the recession has not affected the salaries and benefits of faculty, Workman said the College is being more vigilant this term.
“We’re trying to save money by not putting forward courses that don’t have enough students to justify them,” said Workman.
A class usually needs to reach a critical mass of nine students or more to be considered a worthwhile investment.
However, size is just one of many factors administrators consider before canceling a class.
Scrutiny begins at pre-registration, when Workman and his colleagues flag any classes with fewer than six students.
He said the first classes to be cut are non-degree requirements taught by part-time faculty members. Full-time faculty members whose courses are threatened are encouraged to increase enrollment themselves.
For example, when Laura Davis’ Trail Running class was in danger of being canceled, she posted a note on Student News and the class is now full.
Workman, who understands many Mills students are facing serious financial concerns, serves on the newly formed Retention Task Force, which examines issues that keep students from enrolling or returning to Mills.
Workman said he encourages students to actively communicate with their departments to ensure the availability of the classes they need.