February 9, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 32°F


Psychology minors face registration struggles because of low course offerings

Faculty cuts in the Ithaca College Department of Psychology have left many students minoring in psychology struggling to register for Spring 2023 classes and meet the requirements needed to graduate. 

Depending on the number of credit hours an undergraduate student has completed, they could register for Spring 2023 courses Nov. 1, Nov. 3, Nov. 8 or Nov. 10. Mary Turner DePalma, professor and chair in the Department of Psychology, said that when course registration opened, the department restricted six of the seven 200 level psychology courses to only allow psychology majors to register before other students. 

Leigh Ann Vaughn, professor in the Department of Psychology and director of the psychology minor, sent an email to psychology minors Nov. 11 to notify them that they would be able to register for the restricted courses Nov. 14. In the email, Vaughn advised students not to wait for psychology classes to become available for registration and to register for other courses first.

Sophomore Zoe Paradis Stern is an environmental studies major and psychology minor. She said she was not aware that the courses were open only to psychology majors before registration started, as Vaughn’s Nov. 11 email was the first time that psychology minors were informed that the courses were not yet available to them. She said she hoped to take two psychology courses in Spring 2023 but could only register for one 100-level psychology course when she registered Nov. 8.

“I wasn’t able to plan ahead because I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be able to get into the psych classes that I had wanted … when I first tried to register,” Paradis Stern said. “They sent out the email late and I wish they had sent it out earlier.”

Vaughn sent a second email to psychology minors Nov. 14 when the remaining spots in psychology courses were opened to them. 

“There are only a few remaining spots in psychology courses, due to faculty cuts to the psychology department,” Vaughn said in the email. “If you are unhappy about this, please complain to the dean of your school. My department needs more faculty, and they are in a position to help.”

Paradis Stern said she tried to register for another psychology course after Vaughn sent the second email, but the courses were full. She said she is concerned that she will not be able to complete the requirements for her major and minor in the next two years. To complete the minor, psychology students are required to take six psychology elective courses in addition to the General Psychology course. Paradis Stern said she is considering changing her minor because it has been challenging to get into psychology classes. 

“It’s kind of unfortunate because … I should want to drop [the psychology minor] because I’m not interested in it, as opposed to not being able to fulfill the requirements,” Paradis Stern said. 

Paradis Stern said she feels that the college should have enough faculty to teach classes to satisfy the degree requirements for both psychology majors and minors. 

“They all need to get into classes just as much as I need to get into classes, and we’re all competing for the last spot,” Paradis Stern said.

Vaughn said in an email to The Ithacan that from 2020 to 2022, the number of psychology faculty has decreased from 14 to 10 professors because of cuts from the Academic Program Prioritization process and professors leaving the college. 

Amanda Faherty, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, said she feels the cuts have affected students more than the remaining faculty.  

“I’m still teaching the same classes that I normally teach and the amount of students I’m teaching are not necessarily different,” Faherty said. “[The change is] just in the amount of classes that we’re able to offer for students.”

There are fewer class sections available for psychology courses in the 2022–23 academic year than in previous years. According to Homer Connect, there were 58 psychology class sections offered in Fall 2021 and 64 class sections offered in Spring 2022. Homer Connect lists 45 psychology class sections offered in Fall 2022 and 43 class sections offered in Spring 2023, which marks 13 fewer class sections available in the fall and 21 fewer class sections available in the spring, as compared to the previous academic year.

DePalma said via email that there are currently 233 psychology majors and 85 psychology minors. There are 85 seats available for psychology minors in Spring 2023 courses, enough for each psychology minor to take one psychology class.

“That doesn’t mean every minor got a seat — if a minor took more than 1 course,” DePalma said. “But we would also expect that some of the 85 minors would not want or need [psychology] classes next semester since some minors complete their coursework even by their junior year.”

Junior Shiyu Wu, a composition major with a psychology minor, said she believes that the department needs more course sections to allow psychology minors to take more than one class per semester. Wu said she has prioritized classes for her major and needs to take two psychology classes per semester to complete the requirements for the minor before graduation. 

Wu said she feels that junior and senior psychology minors should not have to wait until after psychology majors have registered to get into 200 level courses. 

“[I understand] they have to take some classes in order to graduate, but … we also have to take … 21 credits in order to finish this minor,” Wu said. “I don’t have that much time left in school for me to complete that.”

Sophomore psychology major Nicole De La Mota said she has heard in class from her psychology professors that some psychology courses will likely shift from three to four credits in the future. De La Mota said she heard that there is not enough faculty to teach courses to fulfill all of the psychology majors and minors’ degree requirements. She said she has not received any official confirmation from the college.

“[The communication] is kind of iffy,” De La Mota said. “The psych majors haven’t got any confirmation about what’s going on. It’s just … a lot of speculation from either professors or from advisors saying what is probably going to happen.”

Faherty confirmed that the psychology department has been revising its curriculum for the past few years based on the college’s suggestions. She said some courses will change from three to four credits as part of the department’s restructuring. Faherty said the proposal is almost done but she is unsure when it will be shared with students.

De La Mota is in her second year of college, but she has enough credits to have junior standing. De La Mota said she planned out the courses she needs to take to graduate in s to graduate early in Spring 2024 and has mapped out all of the courses that she needs to take to meet her goal graduation date. She said the potential changes are challenging because she is not sure how they will impact her graduation plans.

“It’s kind of frustrating because … I like to plan way ahead into the future,” De La Mota said. “Now that things are being cut and credits are being changed around, it’s really hard to figure out what classes I can take when, especially since I’m kind of now on a time crunch to graduate [early]. … It definitely has a lot of stress because there’s so much uncertainty.”

Kai Lincke can be reached at klincke@ithaca.edu