Standing in front of a classroom filled well beyond the 75-student pre-registration limit, sociology professor William Daddio was forced to start “Comparative Law Enforcement” on a more solemn note than intended.

For years, Daddio has opened his courses to anyone who presented him with an add/drop form; more than 200 students took spots on the waitlists for his courses this semester alone. But at the beginning of the semester, the Georgetown College deans told Daddio that he is not allowed to sign add/drop forms as he usually has, strictly limiting his class to 75 students as a function of the university’s commitment to maintaining small class sizes. On the first day of his course last week, Daddio could offer only an earnest “Sorry, guys,” to the several dozen hopefuls he turned away.

We acknowledge the importance of the commitment to small class sizes, but this example illustrates the deans’ misguided application of a sound principle, leading to class size for the sake of class size.

Average class size is a perfunctory metric of the quality of a classroom environment, but defending the statistic for the sake of looking good on paper leaves the critical problem at hand unsolved. While small class sizes at a university might indicate institutional academic excellence, individual classes are not necessarily improved by cutting down on the number of students enrolled. If a professor can design an enriching course that can accommodate many students, he or she should be encouraged to do so.

Both Daddio and his students have indicated that they are willing to make this accommodation. The fact that so many students are interested in the course demonstrates a commendable effort from Daddio and genuine scholastic initiative on behalf of the students. These are elements of an academic community that ought to be encouraged by academic administrators.

If “Comparative Law Enforcement” remains an enriching course with more than 75 students in the room, the university should provide the necessary support for Daddio to reach a larger audience.

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