Optimism Persists Despite Class Cancelations
Students scrambled to rearrange their class schedules as several courses slated to be offered this fall were cancelled due to insufficient enrollment.
According to Dr. Karen Bacon, the Dr. Monique C. Katz Dean of Undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences, classes that “could not be justified from a budgetary standpoint” were pulled from the offerings roster. Among the classes cancelled were the English department class “Writing about Medicine and Illness,” Professor Neer Asherie’s course in Biological Physics, and the first year seminar “East/West,” which would have been taught by Professor William Lee.
Despite the inconveniences the cancellations caused, cooperation between administrators, faculty, and students helped maintain a positive attitude. “Students are working with us; they’re not naïve and they understand the circumstances,” Dean Bacon remarked. “The faculty is cooperative, too. Over the summer, there were advisors making calls to students who might enroll into classes that were too small,” she reported.
Yair Strachman, YC ’17, was thankful for the flexibility he experienced from the University. “YU has been incredibly accommodating,” he remarked. “My schedule was actually made easier by the fact that so many administrators were so willing to help me fulfill my last-minute needs, sometimes even having to bend the rules to do so.” Strachman is majoring in philosophy, a department whose classes tend to keep small student-instructor ratios.
Stern College for Women also cut some of its classes originally offered, but the sentiment is optimistic there as well. Sophomore Liorah Rubinstein, whose freshman honors seminar was cut two days before Orientation, had to practically remake her schedule to take one of the two remaining freshman honors seminars offered. Nonetheless, Rubinstein says her new seminar “is enjoyable and” that she can “only speak well” of it.
Even as awareness grows about the University’s budget constraints, the number of class cancellations is nothing out of the ordinary. Associate Registrar Rabbi Akiva Koenigsberg, who is at the helm of Wilf Campus registration, reported that with the exception of last spring (which appears to have been an anomaly), “for the past many semesters there have been several course cancellations each term.” Jacob Herenstein, the Yeshiva Student Union Vice President of Classes and a junior majoring in accounting, reminded students that “things like these happen at every university.”
Even with the remarkable cooperation between administrators, faculty, and students surrounding class cancellations, some students are disappointed by the larger class sizes and smaller selection of course offerings. “Classroom discussions are suffering from large class sizes,” a junior taking several liberal arts courses lamented. Senior Darren May commented that making his class schedule has become “significantly more difficult than it was” when he started his undergraduate studies. May is studying marketing in the Sy Syms School of Business.
Not all classes with insufficient enrollment were cut. Thanks to a partnership forged between Yeshiva College and the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, courses in Greek, Latin, and Arabic were preserved despite low numbers of students taking them. One course was cross-listed as a sociology and political science course but was later consolidated into solely the sociology department since not one student enrolled through its political science listing.
In order to avoid the inconveniences of class cancellations in the future, Dean Bacon urged students to “vote with their feet,” meaning that students should “enroll in classes early on.” This would ensure that classes that would eventually become populated are preserved and not cut due to a perceived lack of interest.
Higher enrollment minima and fewer course offerings are one symptom of the difficult financial position out of which Yeshiva University is fighting to climb. “Every aspect of University life is tightening its belt,” Mr. Herenstein reminded his fellow students. More scrupulous fiscal responsibility has led to the cancellation of athletic programs and a tighter budget for extracurricular activities.
“Wasting our resources hurts everybody,” Dean Bacon explained. Staying optimistic in the midst of challenging financial times has been an all-hands-on-deck effort, as well. As the Dean reflected, “there is a spirit of collaboration among the faculty and students that is truly heartening.”