By Letter to the Editor
Thank you for bringing to our attention the perceived unfairness in filling biology courses during the pre-registration process.
The decision to eliminate petitions for most of our majors’ courses was made, largely, to fill our classes in the most fair and unbiased manner. Students register based on their randomly assigned appointment time; those with earlier appointments are more likely to get their first choice in courses. This spring will be the 4th term we have gone “petition-less,” and for most courses, the process worked well.
The bigger challenge we face is one shared by colleges around the country—a dramatic rise in the demand for biology courses. In two years, our core course enrollments have increased by 50%. Declared Biology and biology-related interdisciplinary majors (Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Environmental Sciences, those LIM students majoring in Bio-other, and Neurosciences) have also risen.
We have addressed these challenges by adding more sections of the core courses, and by increasing the number and capacity of our upper level courses. The system we have in place, although not perfect, seems to have worked; this winter term, several of our upper level offerings were under-enrolled, indicating that any student who wanted to take an upper level bio course could have done so.
Student interest in research has also risen, and we understand your frustration in finding research opportunities. This year, roughly 33 seniors and 17 underclass students are conducting research with biology faculty. Due to the very large number of majors (Bio and IDs), a match system like that used by smaller departments isn’t possible. We are exploring other possibilities to create more research opportunities and to make the process more transparent.
In summary, these are unusual circumstances. Please be patient as we adapt to these enrollment pressures and trust that we are doing whatever we can to provide you with opportunities in biology.
The Biology Department Faculty