The semester is getting ready to begin in colleges across the country. In Southern California, students will be having difficulty getting their classes, and they will be petitioning to add classes during the first week of school. Consider the following question asked by more than one frustrated student the first week of school and my response given at that time. How might you respond to such a question? Would you have anything to add?



Dear Mrs. C,  

I wasn’t able to register for my classes on time, so I tried to petition. I tried for 6 classes yesterday and didn’t even get 1!! It is so unfair. In one class, the teacher said there was no room, but there were like 5 empty desks. I need that class! She is so mean and selfish! Why wouldn’t she add students?

~ Unhappy with No Classes



Dear Unhappy with No Classes.

It is a frustrating time for everyone in colleges today: instructors, staff, and students. Why wouldn’t the instructor add students? I’ll give you a couple of reasons that courses have caps or limits.

First, one teacher can only effectively teach so many students during a semester. If the class has more than the suggested amount, the students do not get as much quality time with the instructor, so the students’ education suffers. Grading gets delayed, the material isn’t covered, questions aren’t answered, etc. Moreover, classroom size makes a difference too. If there are too many bodies in a room, it can be hard to handle the volume and the heat and stuffiness. Finally, no matter how passionate a professor is about her profession, it is, in fact, still a job that requires work and provides financial reimbursement.

How would you feel if you, or your parents, or another loved one went to work, and the boss said, “Look you have to work for 5 extra hours this week, but I can’t pay you any more. Oh, not only this week but for 16 more weeks too. I need this! Hey, don’t be mean, ok?”

Would you do it? Most people wouldn’t, yet hundreds of college instructors do just his every semester. Basically, any instructor who adds students over the limit will not get paid for the time and effort spent on those students.

I can’t answer why your professor wouldn’t add any students, but I can tell you it is doubtful she is simply being mean. Yesterday with a full class of 25, I had 18 students trying to add. There were no open seats. I might, maybe, be able to add one or two, but no more than that. I am not mean or selfish. I am a professional trying to ensure equality of education and a successful semester for everyone in the classroom, i.e. the students and myself. I am also a real person trying to pay bills as I teach 3 writing classes at 3 different Southern California colleges. Regardless of the fact I would like to teach everyone in the world how to write better just because I love it, that would not be practical nor possible.

It is difficult right now in California colleges; the climate has changed. As you have seen, it is no longer sufficient to come the first day and just petition. There are simply too many people trying to get in and not enough spaces. Today’s college will require different steps for success. We might not like it, but this is the way it is now. You will have to get your classes early and pay for them on time, so you keep them.

I hope it works out for you. Good luck.