By: Yechiel Schwab  | 

Behind 2016’s Cross-Listing Craze: An Incomplete Solution to a Worrisome Trend

In 2012, our University introduced its new Core Curriculum. This shifting curriculum was supposed to accompany an increase in professors and number of classes offered, or, at the very least, a preservation of the status quo. Instead, an extended hiring freeze, combined with many professors retiring and leaving, whether voluntarily or forcibly, led to a decrease of almost 100 total Spring courses offered, and an even greater decrease when discounting cross-listed courses (i.e. counting them only once, instead of under both departments).

[caption id="attachment_4898" align="aligncenter" width="250"]Graph 1 Graph 1[/caption]

Some departments remain largely unaffected, with their Spring offerings appearing relatively stable in recent years:

[caption id="attachment_4899" align="aligncenter" width="250"]Graph 2 Graph 2[/caption]

The departments which account for the majority of these 100 missing courses vary in both size and subject. Some departments, like Speech, Statistics, or Art, are small majors that have all but disappeared. Others, like Physics, Chemistry, Economics, are large majors which have shrunk (note that some of these missing courses relate to the changing requirements and lab courses within these departments, but these changes were all concurrent with fewer elective courses available for students):

[caption id="attachment_4900" align="aligncenter" width="250"]Graph 3 Graph 3[/caption]

In terms of the Core Curriculum itself, overall it maintained its total course-load in recent years. The one exception is the elimination of FYSM in 2016 -- in order to cut costs and decrease professors, this requirement was eliminated.

However, though the Cores themselves remained constant, the departments whose professors teach the majority of the Core courses, namely History, English, and Sociology, saw significant drops in offerings, beyond simply the required accommodation for these new Cores. Due to a decrease in the number of professors, in conjunction with remaining professors offering courses within the Core, once-large departments like English and History have shrunk considerably. (Note that the chart below displays English, Sociology, and History in 2016 without their cross-listed Core courses, and instead counts those courses only toward their Core Sections. This was done since most of these courses have been offered as Cores for a number of years, but only starting this year were cross-listed with Majors. Further, most spots were available within the Core sections, with limited space available in the majors’ sections):

[caption id="attachment_4901" align="aligncenter" width="250"]Graph 4 Graph 4[/caption]

To combat these decreases, and in an attempt to maintain variety, almost all Core courses this semester were cross-listed (16/20), and offered within majors.The English department received most of these courses, with six offerings cross-listed. Sociology and History each received two cross-listed courses. The other six cross-listed courses were spread across various departments.

By cross-listing these courses,the University was able to increase the variety and quantity of offerings within a number of majors, and indeed, when including cross-listing and accounting for the elimination of First Year Seminar, this year’s total course offerings exceed last year’s offerings. However, though cross-listing helps, its scope is severely limited, both in terms of the majors it can help and in the extent to which it can bolster those major offerings.

Firstly, in terms of the majors affected by Core courses, most majors wisely added only one, or sometimes two, courses from Core offerings. Extensively cross-listing core courses would hurt either the Core, the Majors in question, or both. If the purpose of the Core is to provide interdisciplinary study which is relevant for student of all disciplines, how can these courses match the rigor and intensity of high level major electives? Indeed, for this reason, the one department which features a large number of cross-listed Core courses, English, imposed a cap on the number of Core courses allowed towards the major. On the other hand, if these courses do match the rigor of the offerings within the major, how can they still fulfill the purpose of the Core, which appeals to students from all majors, often in their first year? Therefore, cross-listing Core courses does not, and cannot fully rectify the severe decrease in number of professors seen by many departments. Secondly, beyond the limits within the Majors it can affect, cross-listing offers no help to many departments which saw significant decreases in recent years, such as sciences which are unaffected by these offerings (the one or two NAWO and EXQM courses per semester are miniscule in comparison to the size of each of these majors. Further, these courses replaced similar courses offered under the old curriculum).

The overall trend of courses offered continues to point downwards, with an increasingly intense slope. Though cross-listing courses helps certain majors to an extent, a more comprehensive solution, including hiring more professors, would be required to maintain the variety and number of courses offered only three years ago.

Notes on Methodology:
• Class schedules were copied from Myyu, and separated by subject and year
• Research offerings and directed studies were discounted
• Recitations or zero credit Problem seminars were similarly discounted
• No Colloquiums in any department were counted
• Courses listed with zero students were discounted
• In the Music Department, 1 credit courses were discounted.
• Individual Lab sections were all counted as individual courses (except for zero credit labs, like Computer Science Lab).
• All cross-listed courses were counted for both (or in one scenario, three) departments, except for in the “Core” chart, where they were counted only under their Core listing.

Shlomo Friedman contributed reporting.