Opinion: Lost in the crowd

David Chen

David Chen

By Angela Loiacono

One of the greatest challenges the University will present to its students over the course of their education will not be the completion of a thesis or the mastery of a subject. It will be the ability to develop a relationship with professors. Lack of funding, however, has caused smaller classes to transform into large lectures, leaving many students unhappy.

With a student body nearing 40,000, it’s hard enough to find your way out of class without being trampled, let alone hold a conversation with your professor. The daunting task of getting to know your teacher is comparable to finding the proverbial needle in the haystack – it’s not going to happen.

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Don’t, however, head straight to the chancellor’s office with your fiery complaint – the University might not be at fault. State representative candidate Deborah Feinen says state funding to the University has been cut two out of the past three years, and despite funding levels remaining the same last year, positive inflation has meant less funding overall. The University now has difficulty retaining top-notch professors and maintaining class sizes, Feinen says. Why is our prestigious University falling victim to funding cuts? Isn’t education one of the most important issues placed before our state representatives?

The University has a pressing need for funding, and state money must be allocated to reflect that need. It’s imperative that students are able to contact professors without difficulty. I don’t know about any of you, but I think the lectures in Foellinger and Lincoln Hall auditoriums don’t exactly make it easy to get buddy-buddy with your professors. In fact, I’m almost positive that teachers won’t ever know who you are unless you’re one of those incredibly bold people who does something like wear a tiger costume to lecture. (Hey, Economics 102 has had its interesting moments.)

Your professors might hand you a syllabus on the first day of class with a little note on the side informing you of their office hours. But if you’re like me, two things will happen: 1) You always will have a class scheduled during their posted hours or 2) When you set up an appointment by e-mail, they won’t get back to you until after the assignment deadline or after the test date has passed. I guess it’s hard shuffling through e-mails when you have 700 people in one class.

The bottom line is that our class sizes have gotten a little out of control. There’s nothing like waiting 25 minutes for your test because your seat is located in the back of the auditorium – or better yet – the balcony. By that time, you’ve probably forgotten half of the material. And what are you supposed to do if you have a question? Chances are, the professor will have a hard time finding your hand among the huge crowd of students.

The University can’t continue to attract students if it can’t maintain its reputation of offering a high-level education. Lack of funds is not the way to keep the University in high esteem. The prestige of our institution will diminish as students find it harder and harder to gain access to their professors. And honestly, if tuition must be increased in order to keep our education at its best, then by all means increase it.

There’s no sense in paying thousands of dollars to talk to a TA if we could make our classes smaller and finally have a one-on-one conversation with a Nobel Prize recipient.

Angela Loiacono is a sophomore in LAS. She is a guest columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]