Overcrowding Forces Second Choices

Students Jam Core Courses

When undergraduates hand in study cards today, hundreds of students will be signing up for courses that weren't their first choices.

High turnout for many classes, particularly Core courses, has forced professors to exclude an unusually large number of students by lottery or other selection methods.

Record numbers of students flocked to introductory lectures of Science A-17. "The Astronomical Perspective." Science B-15. "Evolutionary Biology." Science B-16. "History of the Earth and of Life," and Lit and Arts B-22. "Ancient and Classical Painting" professors in the courses said yesterday.

"They bumped me out the day before study cards were due," said Debbie Ramirez '86, who applied for Lit and Arts B-22 and was rejected along with 170 others. "Now I have to take a course I'm not excited by, just because it fits my schedule," she said.

Officials said yesterday that a shortage of large lecture halls, insufficient offerings of Core courses, small numbers of teaching fellows, and an unexpectedly high turnout for several courses contributed to the overcrowding.


"There's some new force at work here that we have not yet encountered," said Astronomy lecturer David W. Latham, who cut enrollment in Science A-17 from 180 to 140. "We just can't explain the turnout."

More than 700 students applied for 280 openings in "History of the Earth and Life," taught by Professor of Geology Stephen J Gould.

Head section leader Norman Galinski said a New sweek cover story on Gould last winter "probably drew a bit of attention."

The closing of Sever Hall, the University's largest building for classrooms, has forced many small courses into rooms that would normally accommodate medium sized groups. Diana Whitty. Harvard's classroom manager, said yesterday.

In addition, Whitty said only three lecture halls in the University can hold more than 400 students. "If you have more than three large courses meeting at the same time, you're stuck," she said.

Professors in overcrowded classes determined their own methods of elimination prospective students, Whitty said.

E.O. Wilson, Baird Professor of Science, discouraged sophomores from applying to "Evolutionary Biology;" Latham dropped some students who had not attended the first lectures of "The Astronomical Perspective;" Gould used a lottery; and Thomas J.C. Raymond, Professor of Business Administration, first rejected all freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, and then used a a lottery for seniors in Gen Ed 176, "Business in American Life."

"It's very frustrating," Richard K. Chang '80 said, "to finally get to Harvard and to find out you can't take the courses that it's known for.