The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 8th

Departments' Resources, Classes Scarce

Popular departments such as psychology are especially hard hit as they try to oblige an ever-increasing student population.

This year's increased student population, combined with scarce faculty resources, might make it difficult for some departments to offer enough highly demanded classes for their majors.

Since class standing determines registration priority, some of the 3,650 students in this year's freshman class -- the biggest class in UNC history -- had trouble enrolling in courses they wanted.

More students are registered for a full course load now than at this time last year. But departments with popular majors, such as psychology, biology and communications, are feeling pressure to accommodate the increasing student population.

"From last year to this year, the situation has worsened significantly," said Gustavo Maroni, associate chairman and professor of biology. Like other department chairmen, Maroni blames several factors, including lack of staff, for the problem.

Maroni said the department also is having problems hiring teaching assistants and finding space to open more lab sections, adding that a resolution of the lingering budget dispute in the N.C. General Assembly would help. "Knowing ahead of time how much money the department had to spend to hire would lead to better planning," he said.

Despite the strained resources, Maroni said the department is doing everything it can to ensure that its majors have the courses they need and that it is making sure each class is enrolled to capacity. "We are at 99 percent efficiency," said Maroni.

Seth Leibowitz, associate director of academic advising, said frustrated students should be persistent, talk to professors and sit in on lectures. But Leibowitz said he had never seen cases where students were denied their first-choice major. "The departments do an excellent job in accommodating the needs of their students despite limited resources," Leibowitz said.

William Balthrop, chairman of communications, said several factors are responsible for the improvements made within his department, which experienced similar woes several years ago.

"There was a merger with communications and the radio/TV department, resulting in a tremendous increase in enrollment," said Rosemary Howard, academic adviser for communication studies. "Since then, they've been interviewing and hiring, but not fast enough."

After the merger, many communications students were forced to take summer school classes and were worried they would not be able to graduate on time.

Balthrop said the decline in communications majors over the last four years, combined with an increase in qualified teaching assistants and faculty, have aided the department.

"You can't just quickly shift faculty resources," he said. "It takes time."

Balthrop admits that although problems within the communications department haven't been eliminated, they have been mitigated.

But for Peter Ornstein, chairman of the psychology department, four more faculty positions are needed to accommodate the increase of psychology majors.

Ornstein said the psychology department has in excess of 415 majors. The faculty has experienced losses from several unexpected deaths and retirements.

The department is working with deans from the College of Arts and Sciences to alleviate the staff shortage. So far, it has secured one additional faculty position.

"I know we are using resources as best we can," Ornstein said. "We are just experiencing the benefits and problems of being a very large major."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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