by Ellen Efstathiou
Registration is always kind of a mess. You have to wake up super early and then pray your WiFi works fast so you can get into all the classes you want before someone else does. This is especially true when registering for the spring semester when you’re a first year. You’re the last group to go, and there aren’t a lot of spaces left in classes by then. Last year, I had to memorize the course numbers of my classes to make sure I was fast enough to get into a class that only had four spots left when I registered. (Luckily I was fast enough! Yay for me, sorry to everybody else.)
And the registration problem is only getting worse. Oberlin keeps accepting more students and keeps losing professors.
Let’s look at a microcosm: the Creative Writing Department (because I know about the Creative Writing Department). Now, this is the only major that you have to apply to get into at Oberlin. And it is competitive, especially this year. This spring, the department got the most major applications it’s had in a long time. This is because there have been more 100 and 200 level courses for people to take to get interested in the major. However, this becomes an issue when it gets to higher levels because there simply aren’t enough professors for the amount of people that want to major.
This is obvious if you browse the classes for next year. The professor for a significant number of classes is listed as simply “Staff A&S”. This is true for several departments, not just Creative Writing, and a lot of the classes are the lower levels. Which is no doubt discouraging for students that want to get into a department. Especially if you have to deal with a waitlist. It’s a lot easier to email a specific professor about getting into a class than it is to get on the automatic waitlist and hope that things will go well at the start of the next semester.
The intro level classes are also the ones that a lot of people will take even if they’re not planning on majoring in that department. This is the entire point of a liberal arts college: that you can take classes in areas you’re interested in without majoring in those things. So, if there’s only enough space in a department for majors to take those classes, isn’t that taking away from the entire point of Oberlin being liberal arts? And people that want to major will be upset that there aren’t enough spaces for them to take the required classes, and people trying to get their distribution requirements are upset that there aren’t enough spaces for them. So clearly, there aren’t enough spaces for anyone at all.
So, what can we do about this?
Unfortunately, it’s not up to the students. We don’t have control over whether Oberlin is hiring professors to be tenure-track and whether Oberlin pays its professors fairly. The fact is though, we need more professors to handle the amount of students at Oberlin. The numbers simply aren’t adding up. In the meantime, I guess the only thing we can do as students is continue being stressed about registration.