Cancelled classes at Fairfield are not frequent occurrences, but when they happen they create more than a mess in a student’s schedule. They also create problems for adjunct professors and problems for smaller academic programs.

Classes are cancelled when the minimum of 10 enrolled students is not met. The number of cancelled classes varies from semester to semester and it is the prerogative of the College of Arts and Sciences to cancel low-enrollment classes.

“When a class size gets below 10 students, one can be sure that the student interest in the course is minimal,” said Dr. Timothy Snyder, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

If a class is cancelled, then the effect on the full time faculty is minimal. They will still receive the same amount of pay and will often be assigned an introduction class to teach in replacement of their cancelled class.

For students, however, it is not so easy to adapt to a cancelled class. Registration and scheduling can be tricky, regardless, and is complicated by abrupt changes.

“I tried to take a 300-level religion, and by the time the registrar let me know that it was cancelled, it was the middle of finals week. Nearly all the other classes were full, and it was a really stressful time of year to have to deal with redoing my schedule,” said Liz Burns ’06.

Snyder said, “We do all possible to find classes that fit our students’s needs.”

Professor Jan-Piet Knijff, a professor in the music department, pointed out the difficulties of the situation.

“Having their course cancelled at the last moment would have meant that all the students enrolled needed to find an alternative course to ‘fill up their schedule,’ which I don’t think is so easy,” Knijff said.

Knijff also mentioned that if introductory courses are cancelled due to low enrollment, like his own Musical Theory II course, then it creates problems for the students because it delays them from taking advanced courses. It also could jeopardize graduation if a required course is cancelled the last semester a student has to take it.

It creates an even bigger problem for adjunct professors, since full time professors who have had a class cancelled will possibly get the adjunct’s class.

“We do this [cancel classes] in order to decrease the number of adjunct faculty we use and to increase contact between our full-time faculty and our students,” said Snyder. “The more courses we run with small numbers of students, the more temporary outside hires we will have to make.”

From an adjunct’s perspective this creates problems.

“Income loss and the possible need to find other work at short notice is of course the least problem, but it’s a little inconvenient nonetheless,” said Knijff.

For small academic programs the threat of cancelled classes is also of concern.

“The system requiring a minimum of students for a class to be taught is reasonable, but in certain cases the limit needs to be lower than 10,” said Knijff.

These certain cases apply directly to smaller programs and the classes in those programs that routinely attract only a small number of students.

“We hold the rule with some firmness,” said Snyder. “Often, we have a solid argument concerning the value of a given course, but we cannot get into a situation in which faculty or students have to negotiate their way into the course schedule. So, to keep it fair, we keep it uniform. We do weaken the rule, on occasion, for three programs that are experiencing enrollment concerns that we hope to fix in the near future.”

Snyder did not list the programs that were exempted, but stated that the exemptions were temporary with the hope that they would no longer be needed in the future.

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