By Joseph Baroud and Monique Davis, staff contributor and reporter
So what happens when you throw a party and everyone shows up?
That’s what CSUDH President Thomas Parham asked the Academic Senate last May during an update on projected fall semester enrollment numbers, which were nearing record levels. Parham may have chosen the word party facetiously, but his intent was clear. After four straight years of gaining enrollment, there’s a buzz about this campus. Students want to come here.
There are unofficially 1,404 more students on campus this fall than last fall. It won’t set an enrollment record; that came in 2008, when 1,638 new Toros arrived. But the nearly 7 percent increase is the second largest in school history, and the total number of students is the largest: 16,387, a 14.2 percent increase since 2015.
But let’s answer Dr. Parham’s hypothetical question: if everyone comes knocking because they want to hang at your crib, what does happen? At first, you’re thrilled. You’re popular. But hold on. Your house is still the same size. So is your driveway. So where is everyone going to park, what will they eat, how long will they be in line for the bathroom?
Any big growth spurt is a shock to the system. And this campus was definitely shocked the first two weeks of this semester. In an online article Sept. 3, The Bulletin staff asked students and staff about how the increase was affecting them. If you were on campus, you know the drill: Overflowing parking lots. Long lines in the LSU. More bodies than chairs in some classrooms.
Those are all aggravating and inconvenient, but should be worked out as the campus settles into a rhythm. But some are more serious. Like parking in adjacent neighborhoods and getting slapped with a parking ticket from Carson PD, tickets the university can’t help out on.. Or the longest waitlist in the history of student housing, with some students winding up at Marymount College in San Pedro and at least two seniors who had to lease an apartment near the USC campus.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” Symphony Kelly, a senior theatre arts major who has lived on campus for three years, said. “Instead of walking from the dorms to my classes, I commute from USC and spend 30 minutes searching for a parking space on campus.”
The student housing currently under construction is expected to finish by next fall, adding 504 more beds. But what if enrollment keeps increasing? The campus was already logistically challenged last semester with the shuffling of students, organizations and departments due to construction. Joseph Wen, the dean of the College of Business Administration and Public Policy, said his college dealt with this year’s increase and will “be even more prepared for increased enrollment space-wise,” in two years, once the Science and Innovation and Innovation and Instruction buildings are finished.
New students also mean more adjunct faculty. But like new students, it takes time for new teachers to become familiar with a campus
The College of Art and Humanities increased its adjunct faculty pool 30 percent, Dean Mitch Avila said. Many are new to the campus and Avila said that unfamiliarity might mean some aren’t immediately aware of the resources available to help them help students.
“That can negatively affect students, because new instructors may not be aware of how much they can direct or help them,” Avila said. “A lot of our focus goes into helping our faculty to positively affect our students Our faculty is the middleman for helping our students.”
But though there may be growing pains short-term, long-term it’s a good problem to have, Avila said,
“This is the problem of success,” he said. “ We have the opportunity to create in the next few years something sustainable for decades to come.”