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Don’t blindside Math 54 students

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FEBRUARY 07, 2023

What is a college without its courses or a course without its instructors? It’s hard to imagine a reality where one exists without the other. But alas, the recent staffing changes in Math 54 leave students scrambling for answers on what the next semester looks like for them. It’s a nightmare in course planning that shouldn’t have come true.

With instructors Kelli Talaska and Katrin Wehrheim both stepping down from course instruction, Math 54 has been left at a standstill. Students in the course now are left to adjust to sudden changes to the course, whether they like it or not.

It was recently announced that Norman Sheu and John Lott will act as the instructors for the remainder of the semester in order to continue the class’s availability. But there is an undeniable cloud of uncertainty that looms. Students find themselves worried about a new course structure with the arrival of new instructors. 

The importance of a class like Math 54 cannot be overstated. As one of UC Berkeley’s largest lower-division courses, Math 54 is a common prerequisite for several campus majors, such as psychology, computer science and aerospace engineering. With the fate of the course up in the air, it’s difficult to say for sure that students will be able to fulfill this requirement at this time.

Campus must prioritize supporting this course, ensuring that students are adequately cared for in this period of course turbulence. 

The add/drop deadline for the spring semester is Wednesday. In an effort to allow proper flexibility for students impacted by the chaos in Math 54, this deadline must be extended for this class, allowing students the opportunity to reevaluate their semester plans. Enrolled students have the option to choose the courses and instructors they want, not get placed with ones they never signed up for.

Being able to predict when and how emergencies or sudden changes arise isn’t expected. But in the event that they do occur, we encourage campus and the math department to have a support system in place for their faculty. When an instructor must withdraw from instruction, it is unacceptable that there is no immediate backup plan in place. This places a heavy weight on the instructor’s shoulders to instruct the course, even when unable to do so.

Deadlines for changes to courses should be more widely publicized and enforced for transparency. Now, four weeks into the semester, Math 54 is a perfect example of students and instructors picking up the pieces just to get the class started.

At a school of this size, it is crucial to remember that the impacts of a disorganized class affect hundreds of students waiting to take it. Campus should alter its administrative timelines in making changes to courses so that our educations aren’t threatened by uncontrollable staffing changes or emergencies.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the spring 2023 opinion editor, Ashley Tsai. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.

FEBRUARY 07, 2023