Despite daily problems with parking and the common practice of class overrides in many academic departments, University Registrar Michael James said he does not believe an overcrowding problem in classes exists.
Instead, he said, the university lacks the number of resources-such as more buildings and faculty to get more classes-needed to accommodate student growth.
A. L. Evans, a professor in the English department, disagreed with James.
Not only does she believe there is an overcrowding problem, but she said large classes have a negative impact on classroom productivity.
Evans said she has as many as 59 students in her public speaking classes this semester, a number she says is too large for student success.
“It requires extraordinary work and takes a lot of effort, but we do the best we can,” Evans said.
Enrollment has been soaring every year since 1985, when Frederick Humphries became the university’s president. The enrollment preliminary for this fall is 12, 458 students, an increase of nearly 7, 500 students since Humphries took office.
“A lot of this is we grew so fast under Dr. Humphries that we’re still trying to catch up. And we’re doing that,” James said.
Samuel Houston, the director of facilities planning, cited a number of changes being made on campus to ease large class sizes.
“We’ve just completed the SBI wing, which is mostly classroom space,” said Houston. “We have under construction classroom space in the pharmacy building. We also have the journalism building under construction.”
Houston said the Allied Health building is under construction to add office and classroom space as well.
The changes will allow the school to move to the new wing of the building, while the nursing school will use the building’s existing wing.
Houston said he expects construction to be complete in December.
The College of Arts and Sciences, with 3,300 students, is the largest school and claims more than a quarter of the student body this fall. However, the school does not have construction projects underway.
James said the need for space is not the only requirement for getting a new building.
The prestige of a professional program-such as the renowned success of business and pharmacy graduates-also plays a major role in who waits longest for construction projects.
“We have a master plan and tied to that master plan, of course, is justification. Students in the professional programs need facilities in order to keep passing in the accreditation program,” James said.
Professional programs include architecture, business, engineering, graphic communication, journalism, nursing, pharmacy and others.
“Arts and Sciences, while they’re very large, they occupy a number of buildings. They essentially have presence all over campus,” James said.
Overcrowded classrooms have also been the result of a large number of students receiving overrides from the heads of academic departments to get into closed classes.
It’s a practice James supports.
“The administration of the university has done an exceptional job in accommodating the needs of students for courses by doing class overrides,” James said.
“You reach saturation, and I think every semester if the classroom seats 60 students comfortably, 60 students should be in that class.”
Evans said the large class sizes are demanding for teachers, especially for courses that require more personal attention such public speaking.
“They can say that, but they’re not the ones in the classroom,” Evans said.
“I have a class with 55 students. They don’t all come, but I still have to have their grades in by the end of the semester.”
Evans said she believes the ideal class size for her speech classes “should be no larger than 20.”
James said he does not intend to slow enrollment.
“This is a good pace for us,” he said. “No faster, no slower. But we can’t be effective without resources (such as buildings).”
There are about 500 faculty members at FAMU. The student-faculty ratio last year was 1:25, a statistic James said he thinks “sounds pretty good.”
According to the Princeton Review, this ratio is the same as the University of Central Florida, whose enrollment is 30,036 students, more than double FAMU’s student body.
Florida International University, with a comparable 14:1 student-faculty ratio, has 25, 971 students.
“We recently had one teacher leave, so then we had to take in those students. It’s a lot of stress,” Evans said.
“You can’t go home and do your dishes. You can’t make up your bed,” Evans said.
“We’re trying to address it and I’m sure the administration wants to help,” said Evans.
“It’s very difficult for people who aren’t in the classroom to make decisions about class sizes.”