On Wednesday morning at 11 a.m., five hours before study cards were due, the professor of Literature and Arts B-25, "Rembrandt and His Contemporaries," walked up to the podium in the Fogg's Norton Lecture Hall and confronted an overflow crowd.
After surveying the audience of about 500, the professor, Seymour Slive, decided that sophomores would be excluded from the class because it will be offered again in 1991.
Outside the classroom, a crowd of about 30 sophomores gathered to argue with two section leaders for the course, which had never been lotteried before. They had shopped no other courses, and didn't know what to put on their study cards.
Later, Slive said that he never expected more than 400 people to show up for his course, adding that he had no choice but to have a lottery, even with the impending study card deadline.
"That was unpredictable," Slive said of the heavy course turnout. "My heart is broken about [the lottery]," he said.
The dilemma faced by Slive and the sophomores in his "Rembrandt" class is but one example of the confusion and frustration generated by course lotteries in Core Curriculum classes over the past week.
More than 1000 students total were lotteried out of four separate Literature and Arts B classes, although there was some overlap as students tried first one, and then another, course in hopes of satisfying their Core requirement.
The four Literature and Arts B courses which were lotteried, "Jazz," "Rembrandt," "Monuments of Japan" and "Modern Art and Abstraction," numbered about 1200 students after the lotteries were held.
But while professors and students agree that the lotteries were a poor solution to a pressing problem, no one appears to have an answer.
"It's a real puzzlement," says Core Director Susan W. Lewis, who adds that she had not anticipated the surge in enrollment for the art- and musicrelated courses that held lotteries. "Our Literature and Arts B courses are very stable from year to year," she says.
Several professors say that the whole issue of overcrowded courses needs to be re-examined, and they add that the Core Curriculum's 10-year review this spring provides the perfect vehicle for doing so.
Rockefeller Professor of Oriental Art John M. Rosenfield, who teaches "Monuments" and is a member of the faculty's Standing Committee on the Core, says that the confusion surrounding course lotteries damages the Core's educational mission.
"This kind of tension and turmoil goes against the educational environment," Rosenfield says.
And Fine Arts Department head Neil A. Levine says that his department will examine the entire issue of lotteries at its next meeting because three of the four Literature and Arts B lotteries were conducted by Fine Arts professors. "Our department is very concerned about the fairness of the lottery," Levine says.
Levine says he would like to come up with some sort of guidelines that professors in his department can follow when overcrowded classes occur.