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Hass-Ds are oversubscribed

By Sabrina Kwon5-7301

Despite the increased number of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Distribution (HASS-D) subjects offered this semester, many of them continue to be oversubscribed, according to many students.

All HASS-D classes limit enrollment to 25 students per recitation section. When a section is oversubscribed, a lottery is used to determine which 25 students will be able to stay in each section.

Gail Denesvich '95, who failed to get into Introduction to Psychology (9.00), complained that "it is an inconvenience now that I have to find a HASS-D that is both interesting and fits into my schedule."

As a freshman, Denesvich had lowest priority in the lottery, which cut her chances for enrollment considerably. However, upperclassmen also seem angered by the system. A junior, who wished to remain anonymous, pre-registered for Playwriting (21.702J), in part because the MIT Student's Guide to the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences did not tag the class with the "enrollment may be limited" caveat. Last September, he was bumped from Introduction to Fiction (21.003), which was listed with such a tag.

He explained, "As we left the first lecture, the professor announced, `Oh yeah, we're going to have a lottery . . . and I plan to take only 18 students.' That really [upset me] because it didn't even say `lottery to be held' on my schedule card. Even worse is that the lottery isn't until Tuesday, so I'm in HASS-D limbo until then."

"Uneven enrollment" in

HASS-Ds cited as problem

HASS Office Coordinator Bette K. Davis felt the problem is not so much oversubscription as it is "chronically uneven enrollment" for the 52 HASS-Ds being offered this term, five of which are level III and IV foreign language classes. "There are quite a few small enrollment classes which are excellent, which are well reviewed in the Course Evaluation Guide, that somehow don't get more than a handful of students," Davis said.

Citing 21.003 as an example, Davis explained that even though two sections were added to the existing three this year, thus making the course open to 125 students, 31 students were ultimately "bumped off" because 156 people had signed up for the class. In sharp contrast, only eight students signed up for Forms of Western Narratives (21.012), taught by Professor Henry Jenkins, who received good reviews in recent CEGs.

Newly appointed HASS Dean Philip S. Khoury said that the HASS-D curriculum will remain at its current size for some time to come. New HASS-Ds will be added only to replace classes for which the professors have become unable to teach or have left the faculty.

"I think there are just about the right number of HASS-Ds currently offered, with respect to the number of professors and resources we have available," Khoury stated. He attributed the limited availability of some of the more popular classes to a "premium on small, intensive discussion groups." He also said that the most popular classes are not necessarily the best ones, and that there are a number of less-crowded, "first-rate classes in which new, worthwhile things can be learned."

But former Student Committee on Educational Policy head Alejandro Solis '92 is skeptical about the appeal of some of the less popular HASS-Ds. "Mythic and Folk Motifs in Russian Literature [21.312] is obviously not going to appeal to a great number of students at MIT," he said.

One freshman who was cut from 21.003 agreed with Solis. "Now that I've been bumped from my first choice, my second, third and fourth choices have all been filled. Those were the only four [HASS-Ds] which interested me in the slightest, so I probably won't even take a humanities class this term."