By Lisa Jesudas
Semester after semester, a number of students face the frustration of having their classes cancelled. AUC’s Director of Education, Dr. Michiel van Drunen, explains that the issue of cancelled classes is important as they greatly impact students’ study plans, with some classes having been cancelled for two years in a row.
Classes are often cancelled if they are subscribed by fewer than eight students. Van Drunen finds that “a certain minimum is needed for class dynamics” to offer fruitful discussions and diverse perspectives in class. Other factors include budgeting considerations and the ability to provide lecturers.
When classes are cancelled, the Head of Studies offers students several options, which may include off-campus courses. In some cases, particularly 300-level courses, classes do continue despite the minimum-students rule if there are no alternatives.
Having had two classes cancelled in his second year and another two in his third year, Science major Benjamin Duncan is no stranger to cancellations in the physics track. As a result, he took physics courses externally through the UvA. With word that Electrodynamics would be cancelled for the second year in a row, Duncan and others contacted several professors, including the Head of Studies for the Science department, for solutions. They were informed that the class was undersubscribed.
A student had created a Google Form, which Duncan helped distribute, detailing how many students would want the class to continue and why. “The ball started rolling when we contacted the Head of Sciences with this form arguing that it was an essential course,” Duncan says. Many described that this class is often necessary in many Masters programs and general physics degrees. This was sent to the Head of Studies for the Science department, and an exception was made to offer Electrodynamics despite the usual requirement of eight students being registered.
According to Duncan, there are many factors that influence the cancelling of classes. In two of these cases, he explained that AUC could not find a lecturer for the class and that “that’s on them.” He also believes that some students may not realise the importance of taking certain core courses before registering for certain 300-level ones. He thinks that students would benefit with “extra guidance from discipline-related people” to prevent the under-subscription of fundamental classes.
Third-year Social Science major Upeka Eriksen similarly struggles with not being able to have a balanced mix of courses in the cognition track. A key 300-level class in the track, Brain and Mind, was cancelled and she was left with only two other 300-level options. Eriksen was frustrated that there were not many in-depth courses on cognition or psychology. She complains that, “They [AUC] make it seem like there’s a whole track that you can focus on to give you the knowledge you need, but you don’t get the knowledge you need.”
This forced her to take certain AUC classes to fulfil graduation requirements even though it may not provide a substantial background in cognition. As she wants to pursue a master’s degree in psychology or cognition, Eriksen accepts that she probably has to take a pre-master’s programme in order to obtain the necessary credits. She took one external course and would have wanted to take more, but this was difficult due to clashing schedules with AUC courses.
Second-year humanities student Kimai Molenaar also faced scheduling issues in trying to balance an external course due to class cancellations. To fulfil her language requirement at AUC, Molenaar applied to take a Dutch course through the UvA as the Dutch B1.2 class has been cancelled for both the January and June 2022 intensive periods. This external intensive course would be happening during the AUC 16-week course period. She wonders, “How am I supposed to do four classes and an intensive at the same time?”
Before applying for this off-campus language intensive, Molenaar made strong efforts to have the class at AUC. She contacted the ServiceDesk, discussed possible solutions with the Dutch B1.1 teacher, and consulted the Head of Studies for Academic Core — to no avail. Molenaar had to fulfil her language requirement through an external course. Instead of taking the intensive during the 16-week period, she has applied to take a summer intensive in August. This was exasperating as she felt that she was doing unnecessary administrative work and extending her study time to simply finish her education at AUC. She expresses that “it is a risk for me to give power of my education to other people” in obtaining her graduation requirements.