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As spring blossoms, the arts and sciences wither

Jake Cannon

Jake Cannon

Joel Goode, Opinion Editor

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Although nursing and engineering remain the two schools that garner the highest rate of new enrollments, it is easy to take for granted how much general education requirements impact the rate of attendance for arts and sciences courses.

Currently, the university funding model is set up so that the schools that receive the most new enrollments also receive the most funding. USA is experiencing the second-highest rate of influx in Alabama next to the University of Alabama, and with this flood of students comes a lack of availability for certain core courses that are required of all students.

Dr. Tim Sherman, chair of the Department of Biology in life sciences, has experienced issues with accommodating incoming students and providing enough space for the required classes.

“I think it’s true of every department that there are space issues,” Dr. Sherman said. “When psychology moved out, that allowed for more redistribution, but we’re space-limited at this point. Right now, in freshman biology, we have three core courses that have no labs. ”

Sherman teaches experimental cell biology, and wishes faculty had more lab space so students can receive an optimal teaching experience. Interviewed faculty agreed that a personalized lab space, where projects can be resumed where they were left off, would be of great benefit to the students.

“Having the space and freedom where it’s like working in a real lab is a better educational experience,” Sherman said. “But then, if you have another faculty member using that same lab space, it kind of destroys that freedom, because everything has to be put away after each session creating a break in continuity for the students.”

In life sciences, the labs which are used most heavily are freshman labs. Recently, the Dean paid for renovations so students and faculty could have more space in freshman biology.

“Huge numbers of students move through these introductory courses,” Sherman said. “With the increases in lab size, the faculty has been able to teach students without having to attend labs until 10 at night”

Unfortunately, the upper level courses have stricter lab requirements, which have not yet been met by renovations. Labs will be empty for days, unable to be used because they house lab-specific equipment for various courses which dictate you cannot have multiple classes running concurrently in a single lab. The life sciences are, by nature, equipment-heavy and space-heavy.

Sherman seemed dissatisfied with the way funding is currently distributed at USA, particularly in light of the traffic brought on by the general education program.

“If we’re generating most of the credit hours, then why is funding for the arts and sciences lagging behind other places?”

Similar to English, the foreign language department is much more Spartan in their needs compared to life sciences. Nevertheless, spacing issues continue to be a burden.

“All the departments are looking at a very tight situation with classroom space,” according to Dr. Eleanor Horst, chair of foreign languages, reflecting the sentiment shared by Sherman. “The University is growing as a whole, so we have a lot more students enrolled in our general education courses like Spanish 101 and French 101. However, we have the same amount of classroom space as before, so it’s very difficult to schedule classroom space now on campus.”

The Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literature currently has four classrooms available for use. When there are more than four classes running at a single time, teachers are forced to look elsewhere on campus. They always hope to obtain a room in the Humanities Buildings, where the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literature is located, but if those buildings are full, classes must be moved to another facility.

Places foreign language professors have immigrated include the Chemistry Building, the Student Center, and the Communications Building.

Along with a lack of classroom space, office space has become limited as well. A tenured professor is set to join the foreign language team in the fall, but they will sadly be lacking an office.

The Department of History reiterated many of the same concerns, particularly in terms of the student-to-faculty ratio.

“Classes are capped at 45 per class,” according to Dr. Marsha Hamilton, the chair of history. “This can cause an issue with individualized attention on papers.”

Currently, the department offsets much of the work on assistants and adjunct teachers, but what they could really use are more faculty. Additionally, like the other departments spoken to, Hamilton agreed that the history department would greatly benefit from an increase in classroom space.

It seems as if the disproportionate funding may come from a lack of prioritization. USA has the second-highest enrollment rate, but it also has a notoriously low graduation rate. General education is at the core of our education model, and the students most affected by the classroom issue are incoming freshmen. Perhaps an avenue toward solving the graduation rate would be to better nurture our foundation.

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As spring blossoms, the arts and sciences wither