SF State policy cancels under-enrolled courses

By Jason Rejali
jrejali@mail.sfsu.edu

SF State’s policy to terminate under-enrolled classes will affect students and teachers alike who fear the impact this will have on their futures.

“I’ve had teachers call me, breaking down crying because they were afraid of losing their medical benefits because they wouldn’t have enough classes to teach the next semester,” said Sheila Tully, California Faculty Association San Francisco chapter president.

Although lecturers are allowed to teach additional classes outside of campus, they must teach at least two courses each semester in order to maintain their medical benefits, according to Tully. She herself had an upper division anthropology class threatened for cancellation due to under-enrollment in a prior semester.

According to incoming CFA San Francisco chapter president James Martel, some lecturers were under the impression that classes could be, and in some cases should be, very small for particular disciplines.

“Now it is all about efficiency and filling available seats (kind of like an airline),” said Martel in an email. “I’ve been told that the CSU has certain desired minimal class sizes and these sometimes have been cited as the basis for SFSU’s own policy.”

According to interim Provost Jennifer Summit, whose office is in control of course scheduling, the practice of terminating “under-enrolled” classes was stated in a memo from 1983, which defined under-enrollment as less than 13 students enrolled in lower division courses, 10 in upper division and five for graduate classes.

“By closing low-demand courses, we try to redirect the funding so we can offer more high-demand courses for the students who need them,” said Summit. “It’s an inexact science, but we’ve recently adopted an analytics platform that will allow us to do a more accurate job predicting student course demand so we’ll know how many sections of which courses to offer long before they appear on the schedule.”Summit stated in an email that the University does not keep a list of classes that have been

Summit stated in an email that the University does not keep a list of classes that have been canceled.

While it is difficult to predict how many students are going to enroll in courses, professor Lucia Volk says that class enrollment criterion has shifted away from determining the value of a course by its content to an evaluation of enrollment figures only. In Volk’s opinion, this change in policy led to a “practice of canceling classes that were deemed ‘under-enrolled.’”

“It led to situations where courses were pulled the week before classes started,” said Volk. “Professors were reassigned last minute…and lecturers lost the courses they had prepared to teach (and the income they expected to get).”

Volk currently teaches the Model Arab League class, where students learn about current events like the Syrian refugee crisis affecting countries in the Middle East. The class will be canceled next semester due to under-enrollment.

The MAL class participated in the Northern California MAL Conference in Reno, Nevada April 7 through April 9. The class, which had less than 10 enrolled students, earned three Distinguished Delegate Awards.
Rachael Cunningham, an international relations major who is currently taking the MAL course, says that her experience in the class has helped her identify her career path, and has made her understand the importance of representing causes of some Middle Eastern nations experiencing turmoil and tragedy.

“It’s made me really want to get involved with policy,” Cunningham said. “It reconnected me with the refugee crisis and what I wanted to do.”

As it stands, the MAL course is the only of its kind that will be canceled in fall due to low enrollment, but similar classes such as the Model European Union and Model United Nations will still be available to students.

Alisar Mustafa, an international relations major, said she was the only Middle Eastern student enrolled in the class and appreciated the due diligence the course required.

“It’s a really important class considering the political environment right now and the class provides extensive learning about the topics,” Mustafa said