According to the Office of Institutional Research, there are currently 502 first year students at Reed. That comprises nearly a third of the 1,566 person student body.
One area where the impact of the large class size is most acutely felt is in housing. According to Director of Residential Education Julia Nicholson, Residence Life had already assigned housing to returning students by the time they learned the size of the freshman class.
Reed has a housing capacity of about 1130 beds as of Trillium’s opening, and housing “is typically at 99% or higher occupancy.” Generally, Reed has roughly 420 bed spaces for students in designated first-year dorm buildings. To find housing for a class of over 500 people, they had to make space for 80 extra people when demand for housing was already high.
In order to accommodate the class, COVID quarantine housing was moved from Macnaughton to Canyon House and Farm House, freeing up about 70 beds, and Sequoia was changed from being a sophomore to a first year dorm.
Residence Life also prioritized placing freshmen in any housing that opened up instead of offering it to waitlisted students. “We typically continue to offer housing to students on the waitlist as they become available,” wrote Nicholson. “Thankfully, we were able to make it through our waitlist for returning students, but this is in part due to students securing other housing instead of waiting for the chance at a room on campus.
Housing allocation was also complicated by the college’s decision to guarantee housing for sophomores and institute a requirement to live on campus for a student’s first two years on campus.
Luckily, according to Nicholson, fewer than 25 returning students had their room assignments changed.
The surprisingly large freshman class also forced the last-minute creation of new Humanities 110 (HUM 110) sections.
According to Professor of English and Humanities Pancho Savery, professors teaching in HUM 110 received an email at the beginning of the school year which said that since there were so many freshmen, there weren’t enough sections for every freshman to be able to take HUM 110. Savery volunteered to give up the English classes he was supposed to teach in the fall and spring in order to teach two HUM 110 sections to help meet demand.
“I did that because I really like teaching HUM. I think it’s an important experience for first year students to have, and I was sad that people who wanted to take HUM wouldn’t be able to take HUM,” said Savery.
“It’s a huge amount of extra work for me,” continued Savery. “More students than I would have had in my two English classes. Many more paper conferences, many more papers to grade.” According to Savery, he has at least eleven hours of paper conferences for each paper.
But teaching two sections of HUM 110 has its upsides. “I only have one set of books to read,” said Savery. “Plus, I teach HUM every year, so I’m really familiar with the material.” Savery added that it was interesting to see how differently his two HUM conferences respond to and discuss the same material.
There have been instances in the past where one professor taught multiple sections of HUM, but never because of a need to accommodate for a large class size, said Savery.
According to an article published in Reed Magazine, there were 31 HUM 110 conferences this fall, compared to the 25 that have been typically run in recent years. To prevent crowding in Vollum Lecture Hall, HUM 110 lectures were recorded and posted online.
The article also noted that sections were added to classes in art, biology, political science, and psychology to accommodate the large freshman class.
Both Nicholson and Savery are looking towards the future and speculated about how the effects of the freshman class would ripple through the next four years.
“This is an interesting puzzle with such a large rising sophomore class which will likely mean less junior and seniors are able to live on-campus than prior years,” wrote Nicholson.
“Even if it is only one year, it isn’t one year, it’s four years, because next year all those first year students are going to want to be taking 200 level courses and so those are going to be filled,” said Savery. “And then after that they’re going to be juniors and after that they’re going to be seniors, so it’s going to be probably more theses to advise.”