Anyone who went on a campus tour of Drexel University before attending might remember their tour guide touting the 10:1 student to faculty ratio or the average class size of 18 students. These are great numbers in comparison to some other institutions as they indicate a more personal educational experience. But after two consecutive years of record-breaking incoming freshmen classes, those numbers have gone up. Drexel has not hired the faculty necessary to sustain a close-knit educational environment.
While an increase to 11:1 student to faculty ratio and an average class size of 19 may seem insignificant or unproblematic, it highlights a significant issue in the attitude of Drexel’s administration towards academics.
It is one of Drexel’s worst-kept secrets that it does not invest in its academics in any capacity that the majority of students or faculty would find acceptable. The Triangle itself has even published op-eds from Drexel faculty members highlighting this very issue. Drexel’s administration justifies its cuts to programs and severe underfunding by insisting budget austerity brought on by low enrollment numbers immediately after its overhaul of the Drexel admissions process.
Rather than try to shield its academic programs from financial constraints, Drexel has used this guise of budget austerity to force tenured faculty into retirement under its “Voluntary Retirement Incentive Plan” and avoid hiring new faculty to meet the needs of the massive incoming classes of the previous two years.
The sociology department’s Sociology 101 course has long been a staple of several academic programs, including engineering and computing programs. Up until now, the course was heavily centered around discussion amongst classmates and critical thinking on important social topics, and relied on the small class format with around 18 students. But the sociology department lacked the funding and support it needed to hire enough faculty to teach all the sections of Sociology 101 required, forcing them to change the course format to a large lecture style this term. This means packing over 100 students in a lecture hall, and in the process losing any opportunity for discussion.
The actions of administrators have made one thing clear: courses exist not for quality learning, but rather for pushing as many students through their degree program requirements as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
Drexel’s administration so transparently tries to make Drexel into a top-tier institution that can compete with the likes of New York University, but its cut-rate attitude towards academics will make Drexel nothing more than a degree mill with shiny facilities and a co-op program. Drexel must hire the faculty needed to teach the sections required by the thousands of students it enrolls each year. It should not admit an ever increasing number of students without doing anything to support them— It’s unsustainable.