Campus News

English Composition courses increase

By: Jasmine Saunders, Editor-in-Chief

Effective fall 2016, DSU’s English Composition class sizes will increase from 20 to 25 students.

These courses teach fundamental skills that students are supposed to have in categories like reading, writing, speaking, listening and thinking, according to the English Composition 101 syllabus.

Stevenson - image by Young's Studio

Dr. Marshall Stevenson (Photo:

According to Dr. Marshall F. Stevenson Jr., dean, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, this increase is a part of a budget reallocation process that is designed to funnel money from small classes into programs like mass communications, psychology and sociology/criminal justice, three of the top 10 majors with “consistently high enrollment” at DSU.

The previous course size had been about 20 because DSU was dedicated to “keep[ing] it down,” Stevenson said. Dr. Adenike M. Davidson, chair of the English and Foreign Languages Department, supports the comments of Dr. Stevenson.

The increased class sizes have raised some eyebrows among English Department faculty.

Dr. A. Myrna Nurse, director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Minor and associate professor of English said that the increase won’t give “enough time to give quality feedback.”

Dr. Nurse Office

Dr. A. Myrna Nurse (Photo: Jasmine Saunders)

English Composition courses are about 50 minutes long, so with 25 students in the class, that would mean that each student would get less attention, said Nurse.

DSU students also have some thoughts on the increase.

“I feel like they should have kept it at 20 because that’s the reason I came to this university in the first place, because it was a small campus, classroom sizes weren’t too big, unlike UD [University of Delaware] where they have 30 to 40 students in a class,” said senior Aviation Management major, Sean Todd.

Freshman Math Education major Shaneria Robinson felt “like five extra people count…every student counts, so I feel like the lower [class size] the better…the fact that they’re raising it…is not acceptable.”

“I don’t think having five extra people in the class is going to change the productivity of the classroom,” disagreed Danielle Perry, a freshman psychology and sociology double major. “I don’t think five is a big enough number to distract or hinder teacher and student relationships.”

Dr. Stevenson proposed that the Writing Center, located in the William Jason Library, be a partner in this policy change to assist students in the larger classes.

The administration also plans to refer students to a new Learning Management Systems (LMS) Technology which enables them to sometimes do certain components of the course online, whether it is a quiz or handing in a paper.

“Students have to take ownership of [their] learning,” Stevenson said.

Through the data collection of the dean’s staff, the chair of the Department of English and Foreign Languages and Stevenson himself, they used the data (see Table 1) to determine that increasing the class sizes would not decrease student performance, he said.

Table 1- Universities with Increased Class Sizes

Maximum Enrollment for English Composition 1 & 2 Students Per Class Class Size
Alcorn State University 23-25
Arizona State University 25
Bowie State University 22
Clark Atlanta University 28-32
East Carolina State University 25
Fayetteville State University 23
North Carolina Agriculture and Technology University 26
North Carolina Central University 22
Texas Southern University 30
University of Maryland Eastern Shore 25

Source: Dr. Marshall Stevenson

One professor, who asked to remain anonymous said, that English Composition courses are the “main foundation” of education, and the skills learned there will be applied in every major.

The professor went on to say that it’s difficult to really have a one-on-one with students since professors not only have to teach the course, but still have time to grade assignments, hold required office hours, and attend faculty and departmental meetings.

This brings up another concern for English professors: the increased workload without increased compensation.

Part of English Composition curriculum requires students to write four essays.  A minimum of one revision is required for each essay. This is in addition to reading responses logs, quizzes and exams.

That’s about two-and-a-half hours’ worth of grading, and about 200 essays to grade (for only one draft), explained Nurse.

The next logical question: Will those professors be compensated for the extra work?

DSU Chapter President of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Dr. Fran Edwards said, “We haven’t talked specifically about any salary increases associated with larger class sizes.”


Dr. Francine Edwatds (Photo:

DSU’s chapter of the AAUP is in the middle of contract negotiations with the administration.

The collective bargaining happens every five years covering topics like salaries and raises for full-time and adjunct professors.

“In consideration of what’s happening across the university landscape [nationwide] and not just the DSU landscape…we [are trying] to become more efficient and cost effective,” Edwards explained.


(Feature Photo: Jasmine Saunders)

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