Budget restraints, understaffing hamper psychology department

Registration for the spring semester proved difficult for many psychology majors due to an understaffed department and limited space in classes.     

"It was just absolutely the worst registration I've ever seen," said Ganie DeHart, chair of the psychology department.

According to DeHart, juniors in the department suffered the most difficult registration process, specifically those scheduled to register at 7:30 a.m. on their designated day, as opposed to 7 a.m. By 7:30 a.m., all 300-level psychology sections had closed, leaving half of the juniors without the opportunity to take higher-level courses.

"This was disastrous for our juniors," said DeHart. "For half of them, they go on as soon as they can and there's already nothing they can sign up for. I know that's frustrating. I keep telling people it will get better, and they should be able to get the classes they need next semester, but of course they're still anxious and worried they're not going to finish the major."

To accommodate more students into upper-level courses, the department added two 300-level sections – Psychology of Personality and Psychology of Language – midway through junior registration. These sections, which filled almost immediately, were added in exchange for two lower-level courses, Introductory Psychology and Child Psychology.

"Because there's so much pressure on our upper-division classes, we gave up two of our lower-division for this semester," said DeHart. "I was able to shift faculty around to do that."

The department's registration difficulties stem from a disproportionate ratio of faculty to students. With nearly 650 psychology majors and 16 full-time professors, finding space to accommodate each student has been challenging. Due to budgetary issues, however, the department is unable to hire another faculty member.

"We'd certainly like to [hire more faculty]. It's a budget issue," said DeHart. "When Dr. [Margaret] Matlin retired last year, we weren't allowed to fill her position, and the college hasn't been hiring any tenure-track faculty."

"We clearly need at least one more faculty member, but until … the budget improves, that's unlikely to happen," she said.

DeHart explained that professors are unable to take on more classes to accommodate more students, as their contracts allow them to teach only three classes. She also explained that overloading courses is often not an option for professors, due to the limited amount of space in classrooms in Sturges Hall.

"Unfortunately, even if we were to say, ‘OK, we can take five more students in this class,' there's just no room physically for them," she said.

Last year the department suspended the psychology minor as a result of the disproportionate student-faculty ratio.

"If we let people declare the minor, we can't guarantee that they'd be able to finish it, so we decided it was better to just not let people declare it," said DeHart.

The department is also considering placing a cap on the number of students who can register as psychology majors, although no official decisions have been made in regard to this option.

"We are really searching for a better permanent solution," said DeHart. "Ultimately we may need to limit the number of majors, because we  can't really serve even the number we have right now, and we certainly can't handle more."

Students in the psychology major have expressed concerns over the understaffed department.

"I was fortunate that I got all the classes I needed this registration, but I know that other students weren't so lucky," said junior Hillary Rich. "I feel sorry for the professors who have to balance keeping their classrooms at a reasonable size, but also deal with all the overloads their classes are getting already."

"Another issue that could definitely arise is the diminishment of research positions with faculty," said junior Olivia Derella. "If you're planning to go to graduate school, this is something that you definitely need to have on your résumé, at least for a clinical program. Because there are so many psych majors, those spots are filling up, and certain students might not be able to get those opportunities