Crowded rooms cramp tardy students’ style

Looking around campus classrooms, many students may notice a shortage of available seats.

And, while not everyone on campus feels classroom crowding is a problem, the issue is certainly a pressing one for students who find themselves without seats during lectures.

Aside from the fact that there are fire codes to follow, students sitting on the floor during a lecture do not seem to be pleased with the situation.

Heather Balderson, a third-year journalism major, knows the secret to coping with overcrowded classrooms.

“I always arrive to class at least fifteen minutes early to make sure I get a seat,” Balderson said. “In one of my classes, there (are) always at least one or two people who have to sit on the floor.”

Many students think that the overcrowded classrooms are a result of the highly publicized, $2 million deficit announced by the College of Arts and Sciences in 2005. Last year’s fall semester saw a hiring freeze for all programs and departments within the CAS, which raised concerns that there are not enough instructors for all of the classes it offers.

“It could be that students feel that (there is a problem with overcrowding) but the faculty makes the judgement on how many students are per [class],” said James Liszka, dean of CAS. “We like to stick with the national standards. We try to go only one or two students over that standard.”

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Every student at some point will take courses offered through the CAS because they provide all general education requirements for degree-seeking students.

“The CAS generates approximately 65,000-70,000 credit hours,” Liszka said. “Divide that number by three to figure how many classes are being taken within the college.”

Amanda Brewer, a first-year Spanish and Russian student, is not concerned about the class size itself, but rather the student-teacher ratio.

“The only problem I have with overcrowded classrooms is that there is no time for one-on-one with the professors,” Brewer said. “That is something that I like to take advantage of when I can.”

Jeremy Tasch, assistant professor of geography, said he prefers smaller class sizes, but does not think that there is an issue with classrooms being overcrowded. He said his average class size is approximately 50 students.

“I would like to have less than 12 students per class,” Tasch said. “There is a better learning environment with less people. With 55 students in class, you can’t get to know everyone.”

Tasch thinks that larger classes are needed because if there are not enough students enrolled, the course will be dropped. This not only limits the courses available, but the university loses money as well.

E. Lamarr Jensen, an adjunct professor for the journalism department, says he does not think that overcrowded classrooms should concern students at UAA.

“I have been teaching for five years,” Jensen said. “This is the first (semester) I’ve been faced with a class that has more bodies than chairs. It doesn’t bother me to have two or three extras in the class. It does bother me that it takes time for students to find a seat during class. It’s disruptive, but I do not think it’s a growing problem.”

A number of students have commented that after the first week, class sizes seem to thin out.

“On the whole, there is an increasing number of students, but in terms of overcrowding-there is a fire code and cap that we can not exceed,” Liszka said. “Generally, we feel we have an appropriate number of students per class. Some staff and students (might) disagree who have larger classroom settings.”