Williams School administrators quell rumors of overcrowding, class caps

Crowding in ‘The C-School’ is no cause for concern, according to department heads and professors, who are in discussions about how to handle the school’s growing pains


The William School’s Huntley Hall

Maya Lora

Majors in the Williams School of Commerce, Economics and Politics are in high demand. But department professors aren’t concerned and said students shouldn’t be either.

Head of the Business Administration Department Sandy Reiter said that there are about 70 majors per class in her department alone. A few years ago, one class got up to over 100.

Registration can often be stressful for students seeking classes within these majors because of the demand. University Registrar Scott Dittman said the issue usually comes up during fall semesters but was exacerbated during the most recent round of winter registration by several factors.

C-school majors study in Huntley Hall’s Larry and Frans Peppers Room. Photos by Ellen Kanzinger, ’18, and Maya Lora, ’20

The Business Administration Department, along with some other Williams School majors, does not allow students to declare their majors before the deadline sophomore year. Head of the Economics Department Linda Hooks said that students should not be in a rush to declare and should take time to explore.

The department also caps some classes for majors only and removes that restriction for sophomore registration.

However, Reiter said that her department forgot to remove that restriction before the sophomores’ “Pick One.” The problem was not resolved until shortly before “Pick Three” the following morning, which complicated registration for those students.

Additionally, there were changes made in the Economics Department that condensed Economics 101 and 102 into one class: Economics 100. After this semester, only Economics 100 will be offered, and the previous set-up was only available to sophomores.

The department was not aware of the amount of students who would be interested in taking the second economics class, and did not have enough classes open for those students. It ended up opening an extra section to meet demand.

Reiter said the Business Administration Department should look at how many sections of the INTR Applied Statistics class should be offered each semester as well.

Dixon Layton, ‘20, a sophomore politics major, said he was unaware of the change and would have lost his credit for microeconomics.

“The main issue, I think, is one of communication,” Layton said. “I didn’t know about the change to the econ requirements, like macro and micro being combined, until just before registration.”

Layton said he only found out about the change by talking to other students. He does not remember the information being given to him by any officials in the department, even through email.

Due to problems that can often arise during registration, rumors have swirled surrounding the Williams School that claimed it was over-crowded. Some rumors even stated that the school was nearing capacity for majors in that area that would disqualify Washington and Lee as a liberal arts university.

Dittman disputes this idea. While the Williams School does offer three specialized Bachelor of Science degrees in business administration, accounting and business administration, and public accounting, there are traditional social sciences available. Students who major in economics and politics, two large draws for the school, are awarded Bachelor of Arts degrees.

If departments within the Williams School were to get too large, however, the departments could take steps to address the issue.

Dittman said that during his 33 years at the university, there has always been discussion surrounding limiting majors in and out of the Williams School. He said that the faculty has always rejected this option. “We don’t want to be that kind of specialized institution,” Dittman said. “It is a liberal arts major. You’re not an expert in finance when you graduate as an undergrad; if you want to do that, go on and get an advanced degree.”

Layton characterized a separate admissions process for the Williams School as a “tough road to go down” and said it would probably change the applications the university would receive.

He also said he would have applied separately had that option existed, but he would have been skeptical of the fact that he might not get his preferred major.

Reiter, who took over the Business Administration department in July, said the department talks often about expansion of her department and how to deal with it. She said the department does not want to hire faculty if there are rises just in a few years as a “blip.”

“There are other ways you can sort of manage majors. You can, you know, put a cap on it or have an application process. Lots of ideas have been floated around; nobody has made any decisions,” Reiter said about what to do if the major expands over a few years.

She said the option the department is not considering is expanding class sizes. She said the small class size at a liberal arts university is something the department wants to preserve.

Dittman, Reiter and Hooks maintained that so far, anyone who wanted to major in a Williams School department has been able to do so.

“To my knowledge, there has never been a student who wanted to take those courses eventually, and wanted to major in those areas, that was prevented from majoring because of timing,” Dittman said. “We can’t, given our size and the number of faculty, can’t guarantee that students can take whatever course they want whenever they want to take it.”

Reiter and Hooks pointed out that both the business and economics majors can be done in just two years worth of work. Both advised students to keep that in mind.

“If you never took anything until your junior year, you could complete it no problem,” Reiter said.

Reiter said she understands some may want to get started early for the resumes or internship opportunities.

“I would love to tell the first years of the world: it’s gonna be okay,” Hooks said, echoing earlier sentiments expressed by Reiter and Dittman. “If you did not get into ECON100 this semester, you will be on track for all the things you want to do.”