Registration limits put on business and accounting courses

Callie Ramsey

Registration is a stressful time, so imagine the way the sophomore business and accounting majors felt when the following message from Bob Ballenger, Head of the Business Administration Department, hit their inbox.

“Due to the high number of expected Business Administration majors in the sophomore class and, consequently, the high demand for the core Business courses . . . During the initial registration period for sophomores, Thursday Nov 6, you will be allowed to register for only ONE Business course.”

Sophomores have expressed a lot of frustration with this policy.

“It makes it really hard to major in what you want to major in and go abroad if you cannot even get into the classes you need,” Parker Hamill, a sophomore business major, said.

Robert Straughan, Associate Dean of Williams School, explained that a significant spike in the number of Business Administration and Accounting majors occurred two years ago. The number of students enrolled in these two programs practically doubled with the current senior class.

When asked how the Williams School plans to accommodate all of the interested students, Straughan said the faculty has considered several options.

“Obviously we have a finite capacity because we want to keep the small class sizes,” Straughan said.

Straughan said he believes that the small classes are a large part of what makes W&L what it is. A class size of 25 is considered large and unideal to Straughan, so he cannot imagine raising that number to forty. This option is routinely rejected when considering solutions.

He also raises the point that while sophomores see the current policy as a restriction, it is actual an opportunity they would not have had under the old registration model which was in place two years ago.

“It used to be so that the seniors who had already completed their major would continue to register for business classes because it was what they were interested in and familiar with,” Straughan said. “And then the juniors would load up under the pressure of having declared their majors and having determined what they were passionate about, and that meant nothing was left for the sophomores.”

With the new model juniors cannot initially register for more than two, which enables the sophomores to register for one.

The new model also leaves room for non-majors. According to Straughan, professors want a broad range of majors so that there is a diversity of perspectives in the classroom.

Aside from increasing class sizes, the Williams School has also considered requiring admissions criteria for the major but has rejected this idea because it goes against the fundamental principle that students can take so many cross discipline courses at W&L.

“On one hand I understand why they have to do it, however I think the registration cap should be lifted for those who have already declared,” said Sophomore Rhett Baker. “A lot of the issue is that they’re working off of expected numbers of majors, and they don’t know how that’ll actually turn out till next semester. They should reward forward thinking and those who already know that’s what they want to do and officially state it.”

According to Straugh, the high number of Business and Accounting majors has put a strain on the faculty.

“We have been operating over capacity for a few years now,” Straugh said.

Straughan says faculty choose W&L for the research opportunities, the ability to teach across disciplines and to teach small classes on very specific topics. The strain means that the faculty have to pull back from that in order to be able to provide the basics required for all these students to graduate and it effect on the Williams School as well as other departments.

Straughan said that the best solution for now lies with the students.

“I would ask students to seriously consider the reasons why they are double majoring, Straughan said. “It would be my encouragement to students to major in what you’re passionate about. The W&L reality is that you don’t have to have a certain major to be in a certain career.”