Cancelation policy affects a few at U

by Bei Hu

Some University students and staff members recently found their classes canceled as summer session administrators implemented a new policy allowing them to ax courses with low enrollment. This policy was initiated in response to budget cuts.
“As the money has become tighter, it is important that we put the remaining funds into courses that are going to serve the most students and courses that are the most important to the curriculum,” said Jack Johnson, director of Summer Session.
But Johnson also wanted the impact on students and staff members to be minimal. Only 30 courses with low enrollment have been cancelled so far, a small number compared to the 1,215 courses originally scheduled for the first summer session to be governed by the cancellation policy.
Eighty-one students were registered for the 30 courses at the time of the class cancellations.
The University-wide course cancellation policy only applies to those summer session classes with instruction paid for by the summer session office. These classes are a majority of the approximately 2,500 courses the University offers during its two summer sessions.
Undergraduates who take summer classes are primarily upper-division students trying to meet graduation requirements. Johnson estimated that half of the students whose classes are canceled will enroll in other courses.
Johnson acknowledged that the policy will negatively affect some staff members.
“It may decrease the income for anyone whose course is cancelled,” he said. “But in the long run these are changes that are necessary to the health of the entire program.”
Aaron Michaelson, a doctoral candidate in Russian history, said he understood the office’s decision to cancel the classes he would otherwise be teaching.
“It’s nice to teach, nice to have interactions with the students,” he said. But the University has the right to decide what should be done with its limited resources to benefit the greatest number of students, he said. “I can’t argue against that.”
Effective this season, the policy requires at least eight students to register for a 1000- or 3000-level course before the class can be offered. A minimum of five registrants is required for 5000- and 8000-level courses. Courses that fail to meet the requirement five working days prior to the first day of class are subject to cancellation.
The policy allows departments to apply for exceptions before the classes are cancelled. Johnson said 139 courses in danger of cancellation that were scheduled for the first summer session were exempted from the policy at the request of individual departments. Another eight or nine applications were turned down for failing to present a strong reason for keeping the class.
Johnson said his office has no fixed standards in processing such applications. “My approach to it is try to be as flexible as I possibly can with it,” he added.
Two things weigh heavily in the decision-making process, however. The staff usually sizes up a course by its importance in the curriculum and the adverse impact of its cancellation. A course will be kept if students would be seriously disadvantaged by its cancellation, Johnson said.
The current course cancellation policy is one of several measures adopted by the summer session administration to reduce costs and cope with budget cuts. First announced to department and program heads last September, the policy stems from a similar rule discontinued in the 1970s. But the old policy based cancellation decisions on a comparison between the costs of a course and the tuition revenue it could possibly generate, not on enrollment.
Johnson said that if the current policy had been implemented in 1995, it could have saved his office $300,000.