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McGill has a well-deserved reputation for the quality of its science programs but the admissions process does not fall into that category, Senate heard last week in a debate over classroom sizes.
"Admissions is not a science; it's somewhat of an art," said Morton Mendelson, Deputy Provost, Student Life and Learning. "Sometimes we end up with more students than we would like in some programs and sometimes we end up with fewer students than we would like in others."
Professor Mendelson was weighing in on a question submitted by Senator Myriam Bouchentouf at the Nov. 15 meeting of Senate, about growing class sizes in the Desautels Faculty of Management Bachelor of Commerce program.
In her submission, Senator Bouchentouf decried "significant changes" in section offerings and class sizes in the core program "going from many classes of 50 students to fewer sections of 300 students, to the shock and chagrin of the undergraduate population."
Peter Todd, dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management, conceded some classes are larger than he would like but larger classes are sometimes necessary to allow more students to be taught by tenure-track professors.
"There clearly are resource concerns," he said but the situation is improving.
While the norm in most business schools is for 75 percent of faculty to consist of tenure-track professors, the average at Desautels has been 15 percent in the past, with an increase this year to about 30 percent, he noted. As well, the faculty plans to hire 10 additional tenure-track professors in the coming year.
While the faculty continues to focus on matching supply and demand, some classes will inevitably be larger than the average of 52 students, but "I don't believe class size is a key determinant of the quality of education," Dean Todd said.