The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 70.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Many HASS-Ds Oversubscribed

By Matt Neimark

Between 10 and 15 of the 49 Humanities, Arts, and Social Science Distribution (HASS-D) classes offered this term were oversubscribed, and one was cancelled, according to Bette K. Davis, HASS Coordinator.

Several non-distribution HASS classes were also cancelled, Davis said.

Literature classes were extremely popular this year and had more oversubscribed HASS-D's than any other HASS section, according to Philip S. Khoury, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. In Shakespeare (21.009), for example, 24 students were forced to find other classes. As in most oversubscribed HASS classes, the students chosen to stay were selected through a lottery.

Khoury attributed the lack of space in literature classes to the section's failure to prepare for the large number of students. He suggested that this problem could be solved by fortifying the faculty in the literature department or reducing the number of literature HASS-D's offered, which would encourage students to take distribution courses in other departments.

HASS administrators acknowledged that there are faults in the HASS-D system but argued that as a whole, it works very well. Associate Dean Harriet N. Ritvo said, "There are problems. They're not major problems, but they attack individual students."

Khoury said it is important to limit HASS-D sections to 25 students, even if it means that some students will not get their first choice HASS-D. "We will not sacrifice anything for quality. The students themselves have demanded it," he said.

Khoury said the HASS-D system has been improving ever since its introduction five years ago. Advisors warn students that they may be forced out of a class by a lottery and encourage them to have a second choice class in mind when they register, he said.

To save time, Khoury suggested a system where students find out if they are in the HASS-D of their choice when they receive their schedule. "The student [could] learn right away that he or she is not in the class and could immediately proceed to choose another HASS-D," he said.

Some HASS classes cancelled

Forms of Western Narrative (21.012), the only HASS-D cancelled, was eliminated because only seven students enrolled.

Several HASS classes were also cancelled, but not all the cancellations were due to under-enrollment, Davis said. Magic, Witchcraft, and the Spirit World (21.511) was cancelled because the professor had to teach Introduction to Anthropology (21.50). The switch became necessary when the professor scheduled for that class took a medical leave of absence. Surveillance and Society (11.009J) was cancelled because the professor who was supposed to teach it took an unexpected sabbatical.

Students who have been lotteried out of HASS-D classes are immediately put on a list and given priority in the lottery the next time they attempt to take the class.

Seniors lose priority

For the first time this year, seniors do not have priority in HASS-D lotteries. The reason for this, according to HASS administrators, is that seniors have had the opportunity to take the class for at least three years.

Though freshmen are currently not given preference in lotteries, many administrators think they should be. Proponents give several reasons for the change, including freshmen's unfamiliarity with the registration process and their greater propensity to become frustrated if they are forced out of a class.

Students who wound up on the losing end of lotteries expressed their dissatisfaction with the system. Nancy M. Ho '95, who was bumped out of American Literature (21.006), said she is not happy with the lottery policy. "People majoring or concentrating in literature should perhaps be given preference," she said.

Students often find out on registration day or later that a HASS class they signed up for had been cancelled. Martha L. Bulyk '93 did not learn that Contemporary Literature (21.088), for which ten people had enrolled, had been cancelled until she went to class the first day and waited inside with other students for the instructor to come.

"Someone came in after a few minutes and said [the class] was under-enrolled. Tomorrow is the fourth day of classes and I'm still looking for a HASS," Bulyk said.

Some professors are also troubled by the present HASS-D system. Professor of Literature John Hildebidle, who teaches Major Poets (21.004), said, "I personally find [the system] very distressing." However, he acknowledged that the situation is difficult to improve without increasing section sizes. "No one has come up with a better system. I personally would like to come up with a viable alternative," he said.