Students locked out of needed writing classes

By TYLER BARTON/Montana State News

In recent years, students in some majors at Montana State University have been unable to get into the classes they need due to rapidly expanding student population. English writing majors in particular have especially experienced this problem.

Since 2010, when Waded Cruzado became president of Montana State University, the MSU student population has increased 21 percent. In 2016, MSU had over 16,000 students. For comparison, the population of Bozeman is around 43,000.

Writing was created as a specialization for the English degree relatively recently in Fall 2011. It grew fast for a few years, and has hovered at around 100 majors since fall of 2013. Unfortunately, the amount of classes relative to the amount of students in this major is disproportionate.

Zack Bean, professor and Writing Option Coordinator at MSU, addressed this problem.

“At the 200 level, there aren’t a lot of writing classes (though there are a good number of sections offered),” Bean said, “and the classes we do offer are often attractive to other majors as well. And I think these problems look different depending on who you are: an engineering student might lament the low number of technical writing sections.”

Sophomores face a problem when they are signing up for classes – there are simply not enough 200 level classes for them to advance. This bottleneck discourages many.

Upper division students have their own problems as well.

“The major is relatively new, and the tenure track faculty are stretched pretty thin across courses,” Bean said. “Additionally, most of the tenure track faculty who teach upper division courses in the major have administrative appointments that come with a reduced teaching load.”

More faculty would be an effective solution for this problem, but classroom space at MSU is limited.

“Every department wants more faculty,” he said, “and we’re not the only ones with needs.”

However, in the end, Bean is hopeful, despite everything. “Ultimately, I do think we’ll find good solutions to many of these problems, but we will have other problems by then.”

– edited by Virginia Holst

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