Student-faculty ratio more complicated than it seems

According the U.S. News & World Report ranking for colleges and universities website, "[Student-to-faculty ratio] does directly measure the ‘commitment to teaching,' which ought to correlate strongly with the level of teaching quality. It counts 20 percent of the ranking."

That organization isn't the only one to place emphasis on the ratio; the student-to-faculty ratio has a major impact on the academic environment at Geneseo: the number of available professors affects the number of classes offered, class sizes and the general learning environment.

According to Director of Institutional Research Julie Meyer Rao, the student-to-faculty ratio on Geneseo's campus is 19:1; a total of 5,695 students are currently enrolled.

Calculating the ratio of any given department, however, is a complicated matter, requiring more than a simple comparison between the number of students in a major and the corresponding number of faculty. A variety of factors affect the ratio. Professors teach students within their departments as well as minors and non-majors. Many academic programs are interdisciplinary, meaning that enrolled students are required to take classes offered by other departments to supplement their concentration. Several departments offer general education courses.

Because of hiring freezes, there are currently almost 20 vacant faculty lines and the college has been unable to hire as many adjuncts as it has in previous years.

Andrew Herman, chair of the communication department, said that his department has faced challenges as a result of the decrease in teaching positions. "We have felt [the pressures of this ratio] directly, in that some classes are not being offered because we do not have someone to teach them," he said. Herman said that the department is doing what it can to keep classes at a reasonable size while still offering variety; recently, though, the high ratio has resulted in some classes being reserved solely for communication majors during registration.

The political science department, which also has suffered a reduction in personnel, services both the political science and international relations programs. According to department chair Jeffery Koch, the demand for classes is much higher than the supply of professors. For two years, a vacant full-time faculty position and few professors teaching a large number of students have forced a reduction in the number of classes offered. As a result, there are areas of the major no longer being taught.

Students enrolled in biology and the School of Business – two of the largest departments on campus – received multiple e-mails throughout the registration period announcing changes in course offerings that attempted to accommodate majors needing courses to graduate on time.