After a three-week break void of lecture halls, classrooms and schoolwork, many students have returned to academia and found themselves once again faced with the usual beginning-of-the-quarter struggle to crash much-needed classes.

With nearly 300 courses offering waiting lists and many more maxed out on GOLD, students often find themselves sitting on the floors of overcrowded lecture halls as professors attempt to assess which potential pupils need the class most desperately. According to UCSB Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Mary Nisbet, the university continues to do everything within its power to tackle the issue, monitoring course loads and organizing curricula offerings based on levels of student need.

While the size of this year’s freshmen class is larger than last year’s, Nisbet said enrollment has actually declined to some extent, adding that administrators are currently working to ensure that as many students as possible are able to register for top-priority classes.

“Overall, undergraduate enrollment is actually down slightly from two years ago. In addition, the average course load for students has not changed significantly,” Nisbet said in an e-mail. “Although there has been an increase in freshmen from the last year, we have been able to schedule more classes and spaces for freshman to address the larger numbers.”

On the first day of classes alone, second-year biochemistry major Letitia Mueller said she had to crash a total of three organic chemistry labs — and will again this Wednesday — in order to stay caught up with course material for a class for which she may not even be able to register. While Mueller said she is determined to get the class, she knows there is a long line of competitors with the same goal.

“Apparently there are 86 people on the waitlist and today there were ten people behind me trying to sign up for the waitlist,” Mueller said.

Last year, Mueller had similar issues with crashing a chemistry course, even changing her major in order to add the class and waiting for four weeks to receive an add code.

“I couldn’t get this chem lab because during my first pass time I was a biology major. So I changed my major to chemistry so that I could move up the waitlist, but the last spots filled up before I could get them,” Mueller said. “I crashed the class past the last possible day [so] I had to petition to add it and my TA said he’d over-enroll … because I had already been doing all the work and taking all the quizzes.”

Currently, the university is striving to address such overcrowding — and the accompanying pressure it places on students facing graduation deadlines and faculty working to accommodate large class sizes — by initiating new efforts to direct resources in an effort to provide more course availability.

“The University is in the process of implementing a new classroom scheduling policy for Fall 2013 — which was announced last year — that will redistribute courses throughout the day and the week so that there will be less overlap of classes and students will have more flexibility in scheduling,” Nisbet said.

Communications professor Jim Potter said students are often unable to take courses only offered once a year, such as his class on advertising, which had 20 crashers last year. Although Potter said he does his best to accommodate everyone’s needs, some constraints make it impossible for students to add necessary courses.

“We also have a lot of international students who can’t pre-register for classes [so] when they come here, they have to crash courses,” Potter said. “If a student really wants a course and there’s no room for them, I feel bad that I can’t let them in if there’s not enough seats. In my class, there are some graduating seniors who couldn’t take the class last year, so they had to wait to take it this year.”

Many professors have developed routine procedures for handling the masses of hopeful students that come with the start of each quarter. Associate history professor Salim Yaqub said while overcrowding appears to be less of an issue than it has been in years past, he and his teaching assistants are accustomed to dealing with the problem and, as such, continue to provide students with add codes using the same methods they always have.

“I tell students that aren’t enrolled in the class on the first lecture to go to as many first meetings of sections as possible so that they can get their names on the lists that the TAs keep,” Yaqub said. “After taking down names, we usually wait a week because many people decide to drop classes and we sit down together and decide what sections or times fit best and try to place the students in sections that would work.”

To gain an edge on fellow crashers, some students — such as third-year English and theater major Stacey Brizeno — have developed less conventional methods of gaining the classes they need most.

“I have friends who are science majors with earlier pass times to get classes for me and then drop them so I can get in,” Brizeno said. “Crashing classes is nerve-wracking. Some people have to crash all their classes, and it can get really frantic. When you have to crash, it’s not a good first week.”

According to Mueller, perseverance is the key to ensuring a spot in any course.

“[Crashing] sucks, but it has to be done because this is such a big school,” Mueller said. “With such high tuition rates, it’s ridiculous that we aren’t able to get the classes we need. But I’ve never not succeeded getting a class because I’m persistent and I’ve realized that if you bother people long enough, they will let you in.”

For others, crashing is not such a pain.

Fourth-year microbiology major Kristen Mollura said she has never had to crash a class for the duration of her undergraduate career.

“I haven’t had to crash any classes because I’m in the honors program,” Mollura said.


A version of this article appeared on page 1 of January 8th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.

Photo by William Zhou / Daily Nexus