Under-enrolled courses being cut, leading to ripple effect for faculty


Changes are happening within 23 departments campus-wide in order to improve the overall quality of education for Baldwin Wallace students.

In order to become more current, department heads and other faculty are awaiting approval to remove various courses and sections offered in departments. The courses and sections that made it to the chopping block were those that were typically under-enrolled or outdated as the major has developed over time, said Provost Dr. Steve Stahl.

“With the major programs of study, a good analog for us is we’re kind of like a library,” said Stahl. “We have a collection of programs of study, and a library has a collection of books. Periodically, what libraries will do is go through their collection and see what is being utilized and use the process of weeding things out to keep things current.”

While the tight budget partially motivates the changes at BW since the decrease in overall enrollment, the changes are not budget based. Instead, Stahl said the changes are important in regard to increasing the vibrancy of the university’s future. The smaller budget, however, has just motivated faculty and decision-makers to make changes now.

Dr. Susan Oldrieve, associate dean of the school of humanities and professor of English, said the truth of the matter is BW has come up with a two-million-dollar shortfall, creating a ten percent reduction in overall budget. However, the changes that are occurring within departments are essential in keeping BW afloat and aligned with educational needs.

“We were told two or three years ago that we need to rethink what we’re doing or we’re not going to survive,” said Oldrieve. “A lot of schools like ours are not surviving because they are not changing to meet the 21st century. We’re in good financial shape – we’re in the top 25% in terms of schools like ours – so we’re trying to be proactive and not wait until we’re dying.”

However necessary, as majors across campus are being changed, certain changes may create devastating consequences, said Dr. Beth Hiser, chair of academic studies department and professor of music theory. She said with fewer classes offered, it creates less of a need for adjunct faculty members.

“I think that our full time will be fine,” Hiser said. “But I think that there may be instances where adjunct faculty members may not be needed as much…because they’re aren’t as many classes to go around anymore.”

The mathematics department has tried to combat this concern by managing the sabbatical rotation. However, the mathematics department chair, Dr. Brent Strunk, said there is less of a need for part-time faculty overall, regardless of how the department attempts to offset it.

For example, the department used to offer four courses a year for part-time adjunct faculty, but with sections of courses being cut from the programs, only two to three courses are offered to adjuncts every year. For adjuncts that rely on these courses as a primary source of income, they could be hurt by the changes in course offerings, he said.

Since fewer classes are offered, it can be predicted that the sections still offered will now have a higher number of students. Along with increasing certain course capacities, this issue could lead to an increased amount of workload for some full-time faculty members, said Oldrieve.

One of the major course capacities that has been approved for an increase in course capacity change is music appreciation. Originally, the course capacity for the course was around 30 students, but since the change, the class can now enroll 70 students, which is unusual for BW, said Hiser.

“I think [the professors are] going to be compensated for doing that amount of work,” said Hiser. “I think our bigger concern is, is that really the Baldwin Wallace experience? You know, [the] large class sizes. It never really has been in the past the ‘Baldwin Wallace experience.’ Is this a sign of more things going in that direction, or is it just an experiment and to see how it goes and then make decisions later?”

Another notable course capacity change is occurring within the department of English. English 131, a commonly taken course for underclass BW students, now has a capacity of five more students per section, said Dr. Denise Kohn, chair of the department of English. Like the other changes that are occurring, this course capacity increase was partially motivated by the decrease in enrolled BW students, she said.

Although not every department has felt pressured to raise course capacities, faculty members still understand how changing class sizes can affect students’ ability to retain information.

“We haven’t felt the pressure to raise the course capacities,” said Dr. Strunk. “One of the things we all know that makes Baldwin Wallace special is that you don’t have [large] class sections. If you wanted that, you could go to OSU or Cleveland State. We know it’s important that students get to know their professors.”

Some departments, however, are experiencing the opposite effect of the decrease in overall enrollment. The Computer Science program has experienced a 70-student growth over the past year, said Dr. Andrew Watkins, chair and associate professor in the computer science and engineering department. While the department is growing, Watkins still emphasized the importance of staying up to date with current technological and educational trends.

The 23 departments are working to implement the changes over the course of the upcoming semesters. However, the official ‘go-ahead’ is awaiting approval by the faculty senate in the upcoming meeting.

The Process and Timeline

In order to determine which courses and sections were not up-to-date or no longer feasible, Stahl asked department heads to look at the health of the major and determine which courses and sections would should be weeded out. Decisions will be made in the upcoming Faculty Senate meeting.

He said this semester, the faculty will come up with recommendations about the curriculum and their respective programs. Then, during the Spring semester, time will be spent negotiating the specifics of the programs that need to make changes. The courses and sections chosen will be removed from the catalog in fall 2020, and students will no longer be recruited for those offerings.

Students currently receiving a degree in the courses that are removed will still receive that degree, and a ‘teach-out-plan’ will be implemented to make sure these students are not harmed and finish their degree in a timely manner, he said.