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Freshman Seminar Applications Exceed Spots

Professors Find Themselves Unable to Narrow Fields; Resort to Randomization

By Flora Tartakovsky

Applications for spring freshman seminars have once again greatly exceeded the number of available spaces.

Only 103 of the 368 people who applied to the seminars were admitted, according to Gerard F. Denault, associate director of the seminar program.

Freshman seminars are classes of 12 or fewer students which are graded pass/fail.

These courses often allow first years to explore different subjects not covered in standard courses, according to a student interviewed yesterday.

"I was very interested in the material covered in both the seminars I applied for, and I have enough room in my schedule, so I thought it made sense to take one," Jocelyn M. Walker '98 said in an interview yesterday.

The process of choosing a limited number of students for the seminars made the decisions difficult, professors said.

"I wish the students who wanted to take [my seminar] could have," said Professor of History William E. Gienapp, who is teaching a seminar entitled Baseball and American Society, 1840-1994.

Lecturer on History and Literature Edward L. Widmer is teaching a seminar on Humor in American Culture.

He said that he resorted to randomization only after applications and interviewing were unable to narrow the field of 54 talented applicants.

"I ended up randomizing because there were so many qualified people that applied," he said.

The appeal of the seminars left one student who did not get into them disappointed.

"I find it quite discouraging that I did not get into a seminar for the entire year, and I find it ludicrous when the professor says to you that the way he picks his students is completely arbitrary," Sanket J. Bulsara '98 said.

"People who haven't taken a seminar before should be given priority." he said.

Another student also said he disagreed with some of the methods currently employed to decide which students will be allowed to enroll in seminars.

"I can't say I agree with randomization," J. Chris Paul '98 said in an interview.

"If you're going to be that close to a professor academically, then I think it should be the responsibility of the professor to pick who he or she wants," the first-year said yesterday.

Paul applied for Widmer's seminar.

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