Too few Spanish classes leads to overcrowding, long wait list

GW’s Spanish program is struggling to accommodate students with enough faculty and classroom space, professors in the department said.

There are 89 students on a wait list to get into a Spanish class this spring and 24 classes have exceeded their caps, said Ellen Echeverr?a, chair of the Spanish language program. Spanish 1, 2, 3 and 4 classes are capped at 20 students and Spanish 9 and 10 are capped at 15 students.

“I have been standing on my head trying to get them in (to classes),” Echeverr?a said. “We’ve accommodated quite a few, but I can’t say we’ve accommodated everyone.”

Enrollment in Spanish classes rose 32 percent, from 965 to 1277, between fall 1999 and 2004, Echeverr?a added.

“The problem is the more students in the class, the less individualized attention,” Echeverr?a said.

William Frawley, dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, said the number of courses is not “fixed” each year but is determined by discussions between his office and the language departments. His office also handles funding for the department.

“We and the departments are aware of the issues and are responding as well as we are able,” Frawley wrote in an e-mail. He added that the department needs additional professors and classroom space.

“There are some complex issues here, however, that go beyond just adding classes: there is the need to find available, capable instructors and the need to find available classroom space,” Frawley said.

Thirty-six classes began the spring semester without a designated room, said Gregory Ludlow, chair of the Romance Languages and Literature department. Some of those classes now use the Spanish department conference room. Ludlow said the problem will be alleviated some when construction on Funger Hall, one of the University’s largest halls, is completed later this year.

Echeverr?a said the number of Spanish students has nearly doubled since she took her position in 1994 and that the program is “constantly looking for new part-timers.”

“It is also very heard to recruit part-time teachers; there are only so many people teaching Spanish and French in the area,” Ludlow said.

Echeverr?a said the department has some difficulty recruiting and keeping adjunct professors, who have an annual turnover rate of about one-third. Six new part-time professors began teaching last fall and the department has about 24 full-time professors.

The department is now searching for a full-time Spanish professor, Echeverr?a said. CCAS granted the Romance Languages and Literatures Department’s request last fall to hire three additional full-time professors – one professor each in the French, Spanish and Italian departments.

“In an ideal world, what we need in order to solve the over-crowding of Spanish courses and to continue to improve an already strong program is to hire several more full-time, tenure-track faculty in Spanish literatures and cultures. In addition, we need to better compensate the part-time and visiting faculty,” Spanish professor Sergio Waisman said.

Sophomore Mike Zeeck, a Spanish 1 student, said students trying to be added to the roster were sitting on the floor the first few days of class.

The French department has also experienced increased enrollment, with a 26 percent increase in students since 1998. There are 1,500 students taking French and between 10 and 12 full-time professors, professor Jocelyne Brant said.

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