Path to Prominence narrows classroom availability

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Christian Murphy, ’19, was shocked when he received an email earlier this month informing him that the university was unable to provide sufficient classroom space for all students registered and wait-listed for ME 252: Mechanical Elements.

“Lehigh has barely started expanding and they already have a classroom shortage!” he posted to Facebook on Aug. 6.

Murphy said in the time since students received the email, the department added another section of ME 252 and selected a larger room to host the course. Murphy is now registered for that class.

Allen Taylor, director of technology and campus services in registration & academic services, said course registration issues are sometimes solved with larger classrooms. He said, however, it has become increasingly challenging for the university to offer larger classroom spaces during renovations involved in the Path to Prominence.

The Path to Prominence expansion plan will include a college of health and new dormitory space, as well as a 20 percent increase in the undergraduate and graduate student population.

Todd Watkins, a professor of economics and the educational policy committee chair, said the Path to Prominence has led to concerns about registration and academic spaces.

“There are serious conversations going on about re-thinking the academic schedules, like time of day when classes can start and end so that they can work better and we can handle a greater capacity of students,” he said.

Taylor said Registration & Academic Services encourages departments to spread out course times to ensure there are enough rooms available and give students greater scheduling flexibility. He said there are a limited number of courses that can be taught at a certain time, based on the classroom spaces the university has available.

Taylor encourages students to have proactive conversations with their advisers and the faculty in their departments so they are aware of how many students need particular courses.

“Keep emailing the teacher and get other (students) to do that also,” Murphy said. “You have to make sure (the professors) know that a lot of people need certain classes and that they need to add more sections.”

Taylor said Registration & Academic Services provides academic departments with historical course enrollment data to help inform course offerings. He said departments and colleges choose what courses to offer and set the enrollment capacities for each section within the parameters of available classroom space, instructor availability and teaching loads and regular course rotation.

Murphy said he thinks registration issues will continue even when the Path to Prominence is complete. He hopes that, with the expansion, the school will not only add more classrooms, but also more study spaces.  

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