Graduate Students Discuss Section Uncertainty Following Snowstorm

At a meeting of the Graduate Student Council on Wednesday, students of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences lamented an unusually high level of uncertainty in their teaching plans for sections as a result of two consecutive snow days this week.

The closure of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Registrar’s office on Monday and Tuesday, and the extension of the deadline for add/drop forms, complicated the finalization of class rosters, said John Gee, a GSAS student and teaching fellow in the History department. Without this information, he said, it is very hard to ensure that everyone has been placed in a section.

“This is another week that students are not meeting with their TFs,” Gee said. “I am still finalizing what sections my students are in and, in fact, how many students are enrolled in the course,” he said. “There are still students dribbling in, people dropping, people adding.”

The combination of these factors, GSC President Summer A. Shafer said, have caused professors to seek out teaching fellows for their courses unusually late in the semester.

“In my department, the administrators sent out emails saying ‘TFs needed in this class. TFs needed in that class.’ There have been more of those than I have ever seen before,” she said. “I think the classes [that] enrolled more than expected are struggling to find people.”


As a result, some teaching fellows have been asked to teach sections much larger than the suggested 18-person cap, while courses struggle to find more teaching fellows.

“Someone was basically teaching a 30-person section,” said Caley C. Smith, a doctoral student in South Asian Studies and the representative-at-large for the Humanities. “But I just heard recently that they had added a few more sections. But in the interim, they just had TFs teaching 30-person sections.”

Shafer said she believes the solution to the uncertainty surrounding course enrollments and teaching fellow allotments ultimately rests in instituting a course enrollment system that begins before students arrive back on campus.

“We need pre-enrollment and pre-sectioning so people decide their sectioning ahead of time,” Shafer said.

—Staff writer Jill E. Steinman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jillsteinman.


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