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Faculty say enrollment expansion could help small departments, but hurt big ones

Some University professors are concerned that the Wythes committee's proposed 10 percent increase in the student body may lead to more work for faculty and a lower quality education for students.

The committee believes that "the proposed increase in the number of undergraduates is expected to be roughly proportional to the increase in faculty size between now and the time by which the committee's proposal is fully implemented," according to a University statement on the Wythes report.

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But many members of the University's larger academic departments are concerned that their size and popularity will require a larger increase in faculty than the Wythes report calls for, economics professor Elizabeth Bogan said.

History department chair Philip Nord said the proposed one-percent increase in faculty will not be sufficient for his department. "They have given us room for a measure of expansion, but the increase in students will increase our workload," he said.

Smaller departments, however, are hoping that the increase in enrollment will bring more students to their departments, according to Alexander Smits, chair of the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

"The biggest impact will be in the number of preceptors," he said. "I think it is a departmental issue. In some classes [the enrollment increase] may be welcome."

Smits noted that adding a few students would actually improve the quality of discussion in many small classes rather than causing faculty to feel overburdened.

The Wythes Committee Report also indicates that smaller academic programs may benefit from the increase in students. "Recent growth in the size of the faculty has been accompanied by additions to the undergraduate curriculum in fields ranging from molecular biology and finance to the creative and performing arts," according to the University statement. "A 10 percent increase in the number of undergraduates will provide additional support for these and other emerging programs."

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Smits said the faculty growth required to accommodate 500 additional students would not compromise his department's ability to attract professors of high quality.

"We would have an internal discussion and decide in which areas we need to grow," he said. "We usually contact departments in the U.S. and send letters, typically getting 100 applications for a position. We have a network."

The University statement claims the proposed one-percent faculty increase will be sufficient to "allow Princeton to increase the size of the student body while sustaining . . . core elements of the Princeton undergraduate program."

Yet another issue addressed by the Wythes report is the average age of University faculty members, which has been steadily increasing over the past decade.

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"We will be old in ten years, but right now we're not old," Nord said of the history department.

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