Honors resources should match program size

John Buckley Hall, the default freshman honors housing, has had overflow into Shippee Hall for the past few years. Next year, a new dorm for honors STEM students will be available, although Connecticut Commons, another honors housing option, will be torn down to make room for the new recreation center. (Jason Jiang/Daily Campus)

Over the past eight years, student enrollment in the UConn Honors Program has risen dramatically. Unfortunately, Honors Program resources have not kept pace with this rise in enrollment. The dearth of honors classes has made the task of graduating with honors unnecessarily complicated. A slowdown in the growth in the program is appropriate and resources should always be proportional to enrollment.

Former UConn President Michael Hogan launched an initiative to increase Honors Program enrollment and the number of freshman honors students increased from 300 to about 500 in Fall 2014, as noted by The Daily Campus. Yet the availability of honors classes has not reflected this increase. For example, The Daily Campus reports that Professor William Bailey’s honors organic chemistry class has more than tripled in size since Fall 2007. The growth in honors class sizes threatens to sacrifice the rigorous discussion and student-professor interactions that should be hallmarks of honors classes.

In addition, few upper-level honors classes are available. Though the Honors Program requires students to earn twelve 2000-level or above Honors credits in their major, many majors rarely offer upper-level honors classes. This forces students to either compete for limited seats in the rare honors classes that are available or complete an honors conversion. Honors conversions should only be used in circumstances where students want to explore a course that has no honors sections in-depth, yet many students must complete at least one conversion - and often more - simply to meet Honors graduation requirements due to the dearth of honors courses. The conversion process has no real guidelines for substantive content and students and professors alike often find it cumbersome. The Honors Program should offer enough honors courses for students to fulfill their requirements, rather than rely on a conversion process with highly variable standards. 

In addition, Buckley Hall, the residence hall for honors freshmen, is unable to house all the students accepted. Spillover students are housed in Shippee Hall. Though next to Buckley Hall, these students do not share the Honors community experience of the students in Buckley. If shared housing for freshmen is to continue as a priority for the Honors Program, they should house them together, without separating students that exceed capacity.

In both classes and housing, the Honors Program is not able to accommodate the number of students it is accepting. A slowdown in the program’s growth is a good idea. The University should use the period of reduced growth to increase Honors resources to a more proportional level.