Voices in the Wilderness

A forum for discussion of all things Dartmouth.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


There seems to be a great deal of confusion about extent of the oversubscription problem to classes at Dartmouth College today and the frequency with which this was a problem in the past. Students need to speak up on this issue!

The Dartmouth administration seems to be making the argument that there have always been waiting lists for courses at Dartmouth -- a reaction which is not as reassuring as a simple acknowledgement of the problem and a "we're trying to do something about it." Is that too much to ask?

In an op-ed in The Dartmouth on March 9, Provost Barry Scherr wrote:

"There has never been a time when any student could take any course at whatever moment he or she wanted. As long as I have taught at Dartmouth -- over 30 years -- some faculty have had to close their courses and students have had to look elsewhere."

And, speaking recently to Florida alumni, President Wright stated:

"It is the case that some of our most popular courses in the most popular majors have waiting lists and some students do not get into the courses they want. If this is not acceptable, neither is it new. This has always been the case. I remember my courses in American history would often exceed the room limit in Reed Hall and I would need to turn students away. I remember in the 1970s serving as freshman advisor and having lists of courses that students would not be able to enroll in because they were filled as a result of upper-class students."

As only one of five majors in my subject, I did not have any difficulty getting accepted to any of my most important classes. However, I know that students in government, economics, and psychology that had a much harder time. Introductory courses in physics and engineering -- desperately needed by non-science majors needing to meet their distributive requirements -- were huge.

Some of the most popular classes on campus in my day (late 90s) were in the Speech Department. The waitlists for these classes lasted term after term. It was worth the wait. My class on Informative Speaking was one of the most challenging, most memorable, and most widely-applicable courses of my college experience.

But instead of accommodating this consistently heavy student demand, the College continues to understaff and underfund the department. The D publishes an almost perennial story on this phenomenon, and the most recent is here.

This is totally unacceptable leadership for a school that reputedly cherishes its reputation as the "most prestigious undergraduate institution in the country." The administration's record on this issue is not only passive, but reactively wrong.

UPDATE: A reader suggests that alumni should comment on President Wright's and Provost Scherr's statements. We concur!

Please write a "To the Editor" e-mail to The D (TheDartmouth@dartmouth.edu) and let the student editors there know what your own experience was in this regard. Please include your class year, and the town and state in which you live now.

On the subject line of your e-mail, please write the words:

"Never Wait-listed" (your class year)

or "Waitlisted Once (your class year)

or "Waitlisted Often" (your class year)

depending on your personal experience.

This will allow the staff of The D to sort the e-mails easily. The D will publish its next edition on March 29th. Please make an effort to let them know your experience as a student at the College before then.