Comm. Studies’ lack of prerequisite courses leads to registration issues

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By Domenic Conte, Managing Editor

The Communication Studies Department announced on Nov. 22 that they will offer three additional courses in the Spring 2020 semester after receiving complaints that students could not find space in courses required for their majors.

The department will now offer an additional Conflict and Negotiation course along with a Sports as Soft Power course to ensure students can enroll in major-required classes.  

Approximately 10 to 20 students reached out to the department with the same issue shortly after the registration period began, Communication Studies Department Chair Greg Payne said in an interview. Junior political communication major Annie Noel said communication students have found that in some cases the department only offers one section of a required course. Students can enroll in an alternative required course but may find themselves in a 300-level class instead of a 200-level class.

“It’s crazy, for lack of a better word, that there is only one section being offered of a required class for graduation,” Noel said in an interview.

Sophomore Elizabeth Fretz, communication studies senator for the Student Government Association, said the lack of availability for required classes forces students to skip certain classes and join higher-level courses instead.

“What we’re seeing a lot of now is kids that need to take these classes for these majors are missing out on the progression from least difficult to most difficult and that foundational knowledge, because it’s easier for them to get into a 300-level course instead of a 200-level course,” Fretz said in an interview with The Beacon.

The Communication Studies Department works with the registrar and academic advising during the fall semester to predict what courses the department should offer in the spring to satisfy the student population. Dean of the School of Communication Raul Reis said the predictions were inaccurate this time around, but will help them learn how to prepare better next semester.

“We’re looking at past numbers, from the semester before and the spring before, to get a sense of where students are going to go and what classes are filling,” Reis said in an interview. “It gives us an indication for what we need to do for next semester in terms of predicting. Maybe now we have a better prediction of what’s going to happen in the fall of next year.”

In spring 2020, the Communication Studies Department will offer only one section of Survey Research Methods, Strategic Digital Communication, and Online Content and Strategy, according to eCommon. These courses are required for communication studies majors but will be available to all majors.

Both Reis and Payne highlighted a lack of prerequisites for many communication studies classes as a reason for their popularity. 

“Because we don’t have as many prerequisites as other departments, we have what I think is a healthy scenario, because we got people from all sides,” Payne said.

Noel said the school should offer more than one section of a required class since students of all majors can take the class.

Noel said the department’s preference for classes without prerequisites is unfair because it only occurs in communication studies and not other majors. 

“It’s fine that journalism majors are taking our classes, but it’s like, what if I want to get into a Data Visualization class for journalism?” Noel said. 

In addition to inaccurate predictions, Payne said the overall growth of the department contributed to the registration issues. Enrollment in the communication studies major has increased by almost 50 percent over the last three to four years, according to Payne. 

“In some respects, this is a very good problem, because we’ve experienced growth,” Payne said. “Some of the most popular majors at the entire college are with us.” 

As the department seeks to create new sections for students, Reis said they face the challenge of finding available classroom space on campus. Payne said students might expect more afternoon and Friday courses in the future. 

“We have to utilize Fridays, but that’s a situation here where many students don’t want to come,” Payne said. “We’ve even discussed Saturdays.” 

Noel is currently enrolled in only two classes for next semester after the lone sections for two of her required courses filled. With three semesters remaining, Noel will have to fit all her remaining required courses into a tight window. 

“Now it looks like I’ll be taking all of my classes that I need for my major in my last semester of my senior year,” Noel said. “Shouldn’t I have a little more time to practice and get a grasp on these things, come to school to learn what I wanted to learn before the last semester of college?” 

Noel said limited availability of classes during the registration period has affected students’ classroom experiences.

“Unlike a lot of the majors on campus, with the craziness of when courses are offered, none of us are on the same page,” Noel said. “When we’re in other classes, it’s hard because if teachers want to reference these things that are our base knowledge, we don’t have a common language because we’re all taking these requirements at different times.”  

Junior and SGA Executive Secretary Julia Stanton studied at Kasteel Well during her sophomore year, causing her to miss certain required classes. 

“I was fulfilling requirements, so I thought I was fine, but I didn’t realize that some of the [political communication classes] are offered on such a limited basis,” she said in an interview. 

Stanton enrolled in a 300-level Campaign Management course this semester and found that many students in the class have also missed out on fundamental knowledge because they skipped over required courses. 

“The problem for me is that I’m behind in certain areas in classes where students have gotten knowledge that I haven’t,” Stanton said.

Noel said she knows more about her political science minor than her major after five semesters at Emerson. If she cannot fit her remaining requirements into her last three semesters, Noel said she would have to take summer courses in order to graduate. 

“I don’t want to have to take summer classes to graduate—I have two open spaces in my schedule right now,” Noel said. “I just want to go to school, I’m here to go to school. It’s not that my classes are hard or anything, it’s just that I can’t get into any.”