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Faculty and administration debate about class size increase

By Andrew Wroblewski

As students worry about class registration this month, the University's faculty and administration continue to debate about increasing class size limits.

If passed, the increase would create more spots in classes for students. For example, if a class currently has a maximum size of 30 students, then an increase could cause the maximum size of that class could be to 35 students. However, even after the class is closed at 35 students, additional students could enroll with special permission from their respective departments.

The stem of the controversy surrounding this issue begins with the Collective Bargaining Agreement By and Between Hofstra University and The Hofstra Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (The CBA), which is a contract drawn up between the administration and faculty.

In the CBA, Article 6.11(a) states that by Dec. 1, 2011, Hofstra's administration would review the University's current class size limit. Provost Herman Berliner, in charge of this review, looked at the University's current enrollment limit records, and then recommended changes to the class size limit to each department's chairperson.

Each chairperson now has until May to review Berliner's proposed changes. During this time, each Department has the opportunity to make any comments on the changes suggested by Berliner and/or make suggestions concerning his proposed changes.

All of the information detailing this process is clearly drawn out in The CBA and is fully agreed upon, and understood by, each member of the University's faculty, staff and administration.

But despite this understanding, in order to showcase their resentment towards the idea, faculty and professors — mostly members of The Hofstra Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) — have begun posting fliers around campus in protest. A national association founded in 1915, the AAUP encompasses several college campuses as the "public voice of the academic profession." 

In regards to the issue, the Hofstra Chapter of the AAUP released a press statement stating members of the University's faculty are against the plan to expand the class size limits because they could face increases by one-third or more.

"The Hofstra faculty believes that small class size has been a critical factor in the transformation of Hofstra University from a small commuter school into a nationally ranked institution of higher learning," the press release stated.

However, according to Berliner, increasing class size limits would not directly affect the number of students who enroll in a class at a given time. Class sizes vary greatly at the University, and limits are assigned to classes according to their subjects and structures. For example, a lab would have a lower class limit than a lecture-based class. An increased limit would allow for the possibility of more students to be enrolled in a class at the same time; it does not necessarily mean that average class sizes would increase all together.

The fliers against increased class sizes around campus have garnered attention from the AAUP as the association has recognized Hofstra, along with twelve other schools, on its Occupy Education webpage.

The Occupy Education movement took place on March 1, 2012 and is recognized by the AAUP as "a day of action for education."

During this time, the AAUP encouraged its chapters, conferences, and members to join in by forming different movements around their campuses. The AAUP states that this movement has been created in support of higher education.

The association fears that higher education is in a process of deterioration and that it is up the faculty to speak out in order to stop this decline.

Absent from the discussion are the students. Mandy Jane Roy, a sophomore Elementary Education major, has no problem with increasing class sizes.

"I don't see why an increase in class size limit would be problematic, as long as the classrooms can accommodate more people," she said. "If anything, it'll be more reassuring when it comes time for class registration."

In the following months, Berliner will take into account all of the comments and suggestions made by faculty and professors, and come to a final decision concerning class size limits sometime after May 1.


Correction: The author's name is spelled incorrectly in the March 8 print edition. This article is written by Andrew Wroblewski.

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