From WSO:

The Psyc department seems to be making a habit of dropping over 50% of applicants for their classes (around 50-60 students for a typical 200 level course). I hope Williams is doing something about this…it’s a really serious problem. Last semester, I know of at least 3 courses which dropped at least 50 students, and I’m assuming there were other overenrolled courses which I didn’t happen to know friends in. All told, that single department is probably dropping at least 200 students every semester. That’s ~10% of the student population! I guess I’m wondering why the class size caps are so stringent. Is there really that little space? Could we schedule Bronfman, Wege, and the TPL/TBL lecture halls more effectively so that we could offer more courses to a larger group? Last semester, I had a chem course with only 7 people in Wege, with no class before it, while the Psyc department was dropping tons of students due to ‘size caps’ which I can only assume are due to space constraints in the small Bronfman rooms. After all, wouldn’t a larger course be more valuable than a course that no one gets to take?

1) Williams should be more transparent. The Registrar should publish information about the number of students who seek to enroll in each class and the number that were dropped. We don’t need to know the names of the specific students, obviously, although information about class and major might be useful.

2) Are the 200-level Psychology courses known/thought to be guts? If not, then why is there so much interest in them? There are dozens of fascinating 200-level courses in smaller departments like Religion, Sociology/Anthropology, Philosophy, Art History, and so on. Why don’t more students choose them first?

3) I think that some/most of the dropping has nothing to do with class room availability per se. There are plenty of big lecture halls on campus! And nothing prevents the department from offering multiple sections. Keep two other factors in mind. First, the College (driven by both good pedagogy and concern over US News rankings) wants to minimize the number of large lectures, especially those with 50 or more students. Second, professors (for mostly good reasons) prefer smaller classes to larger ones. They are somewhat sad to drop dozens of students but also think that doing so allows them to provide a better education to those who remain.

4) Given that Psychology has a (deserved?) reputation as a too-easy major, the Department ought to use this popularity as an occasion to get more pedagogically serious, just as Economics did a few years ago. Requiring some more serious statistics (like, say, STAT 200) would do the trick nicely.

5) Williams course offerings should be driven by long term student interests. If lots of students want to take, say, PSYC 222: Minds, Brains, and Intelligent Behavior: An Introduction to Cognitive Science, then more sections should be offered, more professors in this area hired. Conversely, courses with lower enrollments should be dropped.

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