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Majors show decline in EECS

By Katie Schwarz

Forty sophomores have declared majors in alternative programs initiated last year to alleviate crowding in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), according to the fifth-week count by the Registrar's Office.

Physics with Electrical Engineering attracted 22 sophomores, and Mathematics with Computer Science attracted 18, contributing to an increase in the popularity of the School of Science by nearly 25 percent over last year.

All of the engineering departments except EECS had steady or increasing enrollment, yet the total enrollment in engineering declined. EECS dropped to 316 sophomores from over 350 last year.

The Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid decided last spring not to invoke a plan restricting next year's freshmen from majoring in EECS. Preliminary data had shown a drop in EECS enrollment.

The second and third most popular departments after EECS are Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics and Astronautics. Just over half the members of the Class of 1988 have declared majors in one of these three departments.

Although there is some concern among the Aero/Astro faculty about rising enrollment, no crowding problem has been seen yet, according to Professor Emmett A. Witmer of the department's undergraduate office. "For the time being, we're managing quite well," he said.

Biology and Physics followed closely behind Aero/Astro in popularity. Biology enrollment, up sharply this year, is still below its peak in the 1970s. But a shortage of space and resources could arise if the number of students continues to climb, said Associate Professor Graham C. Walker.

Physics nearly doubled its sophomore enrollment, from 56 to 96, including the new program with Electrical Engineering. The department had expected enrollment to rise with the introduction of the new degree program, but the increase was greater than predicted, according to Kim Wainwright, head of the undergraduate physics office.

It is difficult to determine why so many more sophomores chose physics, said Professor Felix M. H. Villars, physics academic officer. But he speculated that "word has gone around that if you want to get a job after graduation, physics is a viable option."

The faculty is happy to have more students, and the department will make sure it has adequate facilities for upperclass laboratory requirements, he added. "When the time comes, we'll be ready."

The only department to show a significant decline in enrollment was Chemistry. Twenty-two sophomores, compared to 43 sophomores last year, chose to major in Chemistry. Approximately 40 students per class have declared chemistry as their major over the past several years.

The faculty in the department would like to return to the higher enrollment level because "that's the number we can handle most efficiently," said Melinda Glidden, coordinator of the undergraduate chemistry program. The department has changed the format of freshman chemistry classes in an effort to be "more accommodating," and is offering a seminar series, she said.

There are only half as many undesignated sophomores this year as last year, although the class size is almost exactly the same.

Enrollment in the School of Humanities and Social Science grew slightly; its most popular departments are Economics and Psychology. Enrollments in the Sloan School of Management and the School of Architecture and Planning decreased slightly.