Dyson to Raise Class Minimums and Maximums


Choate House, where many faculty reside. Photo by Joseph Tucci.

Pace’s Dyson College of Arts and Sciences administrators have raised the required minimum and maximums of students required to run courses in order to save money and classroom space.

The new rule’s implementation comes as a way to properly utilize all classroom space on both campuses and efficiently scale down the schedule to ensure students enough choices for classes while not filling all classroom spaces, according to Dyson Dean Nira Herrmann and Associate Dean Richard Schlesinger.

“We are trying to adjust both the minimums and the maximums so that classes that have capacity are taught more appropriately,” Herrmann said. “There are two reasons we want to do this. One reason is that there is very little empty space that’s not assigned to a course in one of the schools left on both campuses. So, if you create a new course as a department or a new program and you want to enter like five new courses, very hard to find classroom space.

“If we could slim down the schedule in a way that would make sure that students had enough choices that they could really find what they wanted but that we didn’t literally fill all the space, then we can add these other courses as the new curriculum come on board.”

Herrmann further explained that some Dyson courses have large maximums, but never really fill out entirely and the it appears as if it’s under-enrolled compared to its maximum. Also, departments such as MCVA (Media, Communications, and Visual Arts) sometimes have many sections for one course. The idea is to take courses that generally have 10-15 students in many sections and “consolidate” them to have courses run closer to the maximum in order to have a more intimate classroom experience.

Dyson 100-, 200-, and 300- and 400-level courses are now recommended to have a required minimum of 20, 15, and eight students, respectively, in order to run.

This mandate doesn’t apply to the College of Health Professions, according to Dean Harriet Feldman. However, it is unclear if it applies to Lubin School of Business, the School of Education, or Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems (CSIS).

The decision may come at the expense of canceling courses, which is why it’s been met with mixed feelings amongst Dyson faculty and department chairs. Administrators will work accordingly with faculty for flexibility to prevent blocking students from graduating or receiving credits, according to Herrmann.

“Some of the chairs have said, ‘for my department, you can’t enforce those rules too rigidly because it will impact too many of our courses,’” Herrmann said. “We are sensitive to the fact that some courses are foundation courses that are required, therefore they always have high student demand. Other courses are really core courses or elective courses that don’t have a specific requirement behind them and that they often run a little smaller.”

Herrmann and Schlesinger further explained it’ll also be a “test” phase, they’ll review enrollment and such at the end of the fall semester, and appropriately go from there.

An anonymous department chair disclosed that there was no mention of this at the monthly faculty councils, that the memo came after department chairs had set up their fall courses, and that it’s not fair for students who have already registered for courses to find out it’s canceled come August and adjuncts who may be out of teaching a course.

“For many years, the way that this school has been run by administrators has alienated most faculty, which in turn [makes them] not show up for events,” the anonymous chair said. “If you’re alienated from your job you wouldn’t be as effective or as present as you could have been.

“This policy is introduced after we made the schedule. Had you told us this new policy in January, I, because I make the schedule for my department, could have scheduled differently. Perhaps I could have offered fewer courses, or not as many 100-level courses. But now the schedule is live and they tell us this is the policy and it is ridiculous.

The anonymous source said that they feel the administration is doing this so they can reduce the number of courses, thus requiring fewer faculty to teach courses and saving on costs. They also mentioned that Pace needs to raise funds because Pace has a low rate of alumni who contribute to the school after they graduate, as compared to other colleges.

“Every single faculty [person] here has contractual obligations. In other words, if you’re a full-time [faculty] you have to teach a certain amount of courses. So if you say ‘I need you to teach ten courses a year” and then suddenly your courses are canceled, then what are we going to do with you? Nobody knows the answer of course. I think the next thing they would say is ‘oh we’re going to pay you less,’” the source said.

Chemistry and Physical Sciences Department Chair Dr. Ellen Weiser believes the move is economically sensible for the university and sometimes that requires adjunct professors to lose their spot teaching classes as full-time professors take priority.

“That’s the poor life of an adjunct, they have to do what’s available,” Weiser, who wished the decision wasn’t made so all of a sudden. “Full-time faculty have to get their schedules filled first, and if it means bumping an adjunct sometimes it does. Doesn’t happen often. You can’t have 30 students and three sections of 10. That’s where it’s not economically profitable for the institution.”

Weiser also worries that the decision will impact the compensation of the staff since if classes don’t meet the minimum the faculty will not receive full pay.

“It goes with the territory; I do it as a full-time faculty [member] because of my students and there are others in my department also who grin and bear it because it’s for the nation,” Weiser said. “It’s not a major crisis, it’s just an annoyance because you got to think about if you have enough students.”