Lack of enrollment in classes is problematic

By Timothy Metzler

Online News Editor

A minimum enrollment policy in Viterbo classes has been established by Vice-President of Academic Affairs Barbara Gayle.

Viterbo’s minimum class enrollment policy, also known as the eight and 10 rule, is that a class in any department must have eight students if the class is just for the majors of a department, and 10 students if the class is a general education, Gayle told Lumen.

The eight and 10 rule was first introduced four years ago, Gayle said.

“We did try to find the happy medium,” Gayle said.  “But research really shows that eight to 10 students in a class is a good spread for achieving open discussion.”

“The rule is really just a guideline,” Gayle said.  “It’s a goal and a pedagogical practice, but Viterbo isn’t big enough to make the class size minimum a rule.”

Some departments on Viterbo’s campus don’t have enough majors to even have an upper level course that meets the ideal class size minimum, Gayle said.

“I have to look at things to meet student’s needs,” Gayle said.  “Sometimes five students in a class just isn’t enough, but at other times it’s all you can do with a major.”

The religious studies and philosophy department professors at Viterbo fear that some of their
upper-level classes will be cancelled for next semester, Bill Reese, the faculty chair of the religious studies and philosophy department, told Lumen.

The religious studies and philosophy department is struggling, Reese explained, because there aren’t enough majors or interested students to justify some of the upper-level philosophy and religious studies courses.

“Every semester is touch and go,” Reese said.  “We only have about seven total majors between religious studies and philosophy.  Most upper-level classes are directed toward those students and the minors, so those classes will either draw right at the line or fall short and be cancelled.”

“It looks like there are three philosophy classes for next semester that are at risk of being shut down,” Reese said.  One of those classes is Medieval Philosophy, which would be taught by Larry Harwood, a professor of philosophy.

“I’m already concerned about classes next semester—some of my classes,” Harwood said.  “The 300-level courses were always in need of students, but the class size has been raised, so now they’re even harder to fill.”

“Philosophy is a tough sell, especially in consideration of its practicality,” Harwood said.  “But, to back away from religious studies—from philosophy—is to run away from this university.”

“As unfair as the rule seems, it’s got to be there,” Reese said.  “If the rule wasn’t in place, we could easily have a philosophy professor teaching a class with just four people.  The rule has evened the workload for teachers.”

The religious studies and philosophy department is not the only department that has been affected by the eight and 10 rule, Reese stated.

“You’re probably going to run into the same problem in other majors,” Reese said.

Another major affected by the rule is the math department.

Because of the rule, the math department has had to offer some of the courses it used to offer every year on an every other year basis, Rich Maresh, the faculty chair of the Viterbo math department, told Lumen.

“With math, we teach a lot of support courses with about 25 to 30 students,” Maresh said.  “But we only have about six to 10 juniors and seniors in a major at one time, so we only teach two or three upper-division courses in a semester.  To deal with this [lack of majors], we’ve been treated with some leniency in regards to the size of those classes.”

“I think we had one class last year that we had about three students,” Maresh said.  “It was a section on probability and statistics.”

“If there’s a situation where we have five majors that need a class to graduate, I’m positive Dr. Gayle would let us teach the class,” Reese said.

“I think the philosophy major is doing some amazing things,” Gayle said.  “They’re making the credit total required for the major to be about 33 to 35 credits, so nearly any major can double major with philosophy.”

“The truth is that the students are in the driver’s seat,” Gayle said.  “By signing up, they are the ones who decide which classes go and which don’t.”

“I respect Bill and Larry,” Gayle said.  “They do a tremendous service to this university.”

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