Class dissappearing act

By Justin Tatum, CONTRIBUTOR
Communication students at California State University, East Bay that were expecting to take COMM 318, Journalism Law and Ethics, were supposedly sent an email before the semester announcing the class was canceled due to low enrollment.
“I never received the notification that Journalism Law and Ethics was canceled before the beginning of the semester,” said Kelsey Marasigan, a communication major. Students are not the only ones affected by changes like these. Kevin Pina, a professor in the Communication department, would have been the instructor for the Spring 2020 session of COMM 318. However, due to the cancelation, Professor Pina was not able to teach the class.
“This happens all the time,” Pina said when asked if this was a common occurrence. Low enrollment is the primary reason why classes in the Colleges of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences get canceled. But, what exactly does low enrollment mean?
Low enrollment can vary based on the capacity requirements set by the department chairs of each respective discipline. A lecture might have a course capacity of 30 students and if the enrollment rate is 10, that would be considered low enrollment.
Mary Cardaras, Associate Professor and Chair for the Department of Communication at CSUEB, says it is her job to create the class schedules for each semester and the Associate Dean of the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences, Patricia Jennings reviews it. It is this dialogue between the chairs of each department and Dr. Jennings that determines what classes stay available for students in their respective departments under the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences, which covers departments such as, English, Art, Music, History, Philosophy, and Communication.
Dr. Cardaras expressed in an interview that while canceling classes does happen, it is a last resort and any student with enrollment concerns or issues is advised to visit her. Dr. Cardaras also says, “I advise everyone to see me. Even if you don’t have problems with your schedule”. But why is it important to cancel classes that have low enrollment?
An interview with Dr. Jennings revealed the answer to this question. Dr. Jennings is responsible for managing class schedules and the budget for the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences. Offering courses at the university is expensive and, according to Dr. Jennings, a three-unit class being taught by a lecturer can cost anywhere from $7,500.00 to $8,100.00. Dr. Jennings says, “From this, it is clear that allowing too many low-enrolled classes to remain open would be very costly for the College.” To avoid unnecessary costs, Dr. Jennings reaches out to the appropriate chair of class with the low enrolled courses to discuss options.
During the interview, Dr. Jennings made it clear that she expressed a similar aversion to canceling classes outright, like Dr. Cardaras. There are situations where courses can be protected from being closed. For instance, Dr. Jennings may not request that a GE course to be closed if it enrolls close to 15.
Before concluding that a course needs to be canceled, tactics like waiting to see if the class fills up a few weeks into the semester have been done in the past and in some cases, classes were able to remain open. Another alternative to canceling a class outright is to combine low enrolled courses. An example of this is COMM 328 and COMM 428 both instructed by Professor Pina.
Dr. Jennings does her best to negotiate with department chairs before making the decision to keep classes open or cancel them but must consider the effects that keeping courses open can have on the budget that our college gets. Hopefully, students are not affected by class cancelations as they sign up for classes next term.