Overcrowded Waitlists Delay Graduation for Science Majors

    It’s obvious that UCSD is one of the best science schools in the country. It was named the “”hottest”” institution in the nation for science students by Newsweek and the 2006 Kaplan College Guide and ranks sixth in the nation in National Academy of Sciences membership. We have wonderful professors, tons of funding and intriguing research.

    So why are my biology-major friends complaining?

    Well, for starters, it seems they can’t graduate.

    To be more specific, they’re microbiology majors. Part of their problem lies in this specialty, and the fact that the 113 of them are outnumbered by the rest of the biology majors, who number about 4,427. This means that when it came time to sign up for their required microbiology lab, usually taken senior year, they ran into a problem: all the sections were full.

    Stephanie Moody-Geissler, a Revelle college senior and transfer student, has been trying to get into the microbiology lab since fall quarter of this year. When she started the year out it didn’t seem like it was going to be a problem. She only had four classes she needed to graduate: medical microbiology, immunology, virology and a lab. She wasn’t even that worried when she found out that virology was only offered in spring and medical microbiology in winter – she still had plenty of time to take her classes and graduate in the spring.

    So she didn’t panic when she saw that the class and the waitlist were full fall quarter, and rather than waitlisting at number 16 and not getting in, she decided to take some other courses. But then the same thing happened in winter. Still, she decided to take it in stride. It wasn’t until she found herself seventh on the waitlist for spring that it hit her. There was no way she could graduate on time.

    Moody-Geissler isn’t the only one with this dilemma; there are currently six other graduating microbiology seniors on the waitlist for this lab. The annoying thing is that there are only 63 microbiology seniors in total, and 96 spots in the four labs combined. There are plenty of spaces, but even though this class is only required by the microbiology major, it is open to all biology students.

    When these six students realized that they might not graduate, they sent a barrage of e-mails off to the biology department, specifically to Dana Brehm, the department coordinator.

    In an e-mail dated Feb. 22, Brehm came back with the following options:

    Stay on the waitlist and see if you can add.

    Change your major to general biology.

    Try to enroll in BIMM 121 next quarter.

    None of these are real solutions to the problem. Of course the students are going to try to get into the class; the entire point is that they’re afraid that they won’t succeed, especially when some of them have waitlisted for the class before. The third option doesn’t address the issue of graduation at all. As for the second option, “”It was the most insulting thing anyone has ever said to me,”” Moody-Geissler said.

    “”Imagine that it’s your last quarter, and you’ve worked hard to make it in a major that you enjoy and really want to pursue in life,”” she said. “”Then someone says that the only way you can graduate on time is to change your major.””

    To add insult to injury, the department suggested that it was the students’ fault that they hadn’t gotten into the class, adding, “”It is always highly recommended that students not wait until their last quarter to take any required course.”” In another e-mail, dated March 6, that point is belabored again, even though other e-mails from the students explained that they had tried to add it earlier in the year.

    Some solutions have materialized out of this e-mail fracas, such as petitioning to have another course offered in place of the lab class and taking a new lab offered this summer, one with reserved spots for microbiology students.

    But by now, many of the classes that could have been taken as replacement for that lab are already full, and some of the students are upset that they won’t get a chance to take a biology lab.

    As for the summer course, for Moody-Geissler it isn’t an option.

    “”I’m spending summer volunteering in Africa for the Arusha project,”” she said. “”It’s all planned out … I can’t just drop it.””

    But what the entire situation reveals is something biology students have always suspected – their department advisers don’t really care about the undergraduates. Memby Arades is a Warren college senior, and another transfer student who is trying to get a general biology degree. When she found that she couldn’t get into the labs that she needed to graduate, she decided to take some psychology classes with the goal of getting a psychology minor.

    Two years later, she’s almost done with a psychology major, and still hasn’t been able to get into her lab classes.

    “”The biology advisers don’t really help with the process at all,”” Arades said. “”They just follow their guidelines and tell you to try again next quarter. They’re polite, but if you don’t have enough units it feels like they just write you off.””

    Right now, most of the students have been appeased by the offer of the summer session lab. But they’re still a bit uneasy. Sure, they’re going to graduate, but what about the students graduating next year, or the year after that?

    Does the department care enough to help them?

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