Thursday, August 31, 2006

And the week was off to such a great start ...

This week started so well. My first lectures and labs all went smoothly, a potentially devastating technology problem was fixed by our tech folks in less than 2 hours, and my department bought me a cake to celebrate getting tenure.

However, low enrollments are now wreaking havoc. This semester I was going to be teaching a new course (a little 1-unit course that was intended to help our students think about what they could do with a biology degree). It was going to be great fun. There was only one problem: official enrollment was less than half what the administration wanted. In fact, it was so low that they almost cancelled the course the week before classes started.

I went into advertising overdrive and did all I could to attract students. Fliers. PowerPoint slides. E-mails. I needed at least eight extra students to walk into the room on the first day; only three extra students came. I thus got to cancel a class five minutes after it started. It was depressing, especially since I knew most of the students who were enrolled (they were great students of mine from prior semesters).

And, even more depressing, my main course is also under-enrolled (we're not sure why; we've finally arranged time slots that conflict with few other courses). The enrollment is so bad that it's nearly certain a lab section will be cancelled.

If the administration cancels a lab section, it will cause problems with my own load, but it will almost certainly mean that the adjunct I have helping me teach the course will lose their job (or at least lose more than half their courseload). This adjunct is a stellar instructor (there's a reason they're teaching my course), and deserves better.

Tonight I've been asked to write a justification for why we should keep all my labs running. The thing is, the enrollments are so low that I don't have much of a case. While I love teaching small labs, financially we just can't afford it as a college. But I've got to give this my best shot, because a large part of my adjunct's job is riding on it.


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