The collapse of “Great Powers and Empires”

Some students left out of the image above--they couldn't all fit.

After almost 700 students registered for POLS1510, “Great Powers and Empires,” with popular adjunct professor Minh Luong, the Political Science department has said enough.  Enticed by promises of minimal writing and only an hour and a half of mandatory class every week, 688 students have registered for Luong’s class so far, and, according to individuals who have received apologetic emails from the professor, almost another 125 are trying to get into the class.

In spite of the 594-person capacity boasted by Salomon DeCiccio, the auditorium where the class is held, the PoliSci department has decided to reduce the number of students registered for the class to 300.  To achieve this goal, the registrar will kick all freshman and sophomores out of the course and only allow some juniors to remain registered.  Let the frantic shopping begin.

Update: Professor Luong has submitted his reply regarding this discussion to us at BlogDailyHerald, which we have printed in full below:

Dear Blog Herald Readers,

I have enjoyed reading David Winer’s blog posts and noticed that he posted an entry on my course, Great Powers and Empires (loved the picture above the post, by the way).

While I realize that blog posts are more casual and anecdotal than news stories, I hope to clarify a few points which I believe are not representative of the class:  

First, the course does meet on Wednesdays and Fridays and while I expect everyone to attend the Wednesday lecture, we will be using Friday class meetings for class discussion, Q+A, and screening documentaries. Given the level of enthusiasm for the course, I expect most of the students will attend the Friday class meetings regularly. These activities were not possible under the previous once-per-week format and I think represents a significant improvement in the course and an opportunity for students to interact with me and the TAs in a way not possible previously.

Second, the reference to “minimal writing” is misleading and assumes that the course approach is less than rigorous. Writing is typically not emphasized in large lecture courses but is the hallmark of seminar courses. This particular survey course has a different focus — a reading-intensive course with a very robust reading list spanning nearly 3000 years of history. There are three rigorous examinations — two midterms and a cumulative final.

Third, the statement that only some juniors will remain is inaccurate. The registrar’s office will be running a report overnight but based on an examination of the enrollment as of today, while the final determination has yet to be made tomorrow, we will try to keep all of the juniors.

Finally, this type of response to a class is unprecedented, at least for me. The last time I taught this course, only 267 students enrolled. I remain both shocked and humbled by this experience and the good news is that Professor Morone, the department chair of the political science department, told me today that given the response to the class by the students, that we will work to sponsor the course in the near future.

I am very much looking forward to working with the students in the class this semester and with the present first and second year students the next time I am asked to teach the course.

Minh A. Luong

Adjunct Lecturer


  1. great power

    where is this information coming from?

  2. Rusty Shackleford

    This isn’t particularly fair. It’s already a week into shopping period and I know that many of those signed up for this class, including me, are highly dependent on taking it, due to their schedules.

  3. spade = spade

    Clearly the only bit w/ which Prof. Luong took issue:
    \enticed by promises of minimal writing and only an hour and a half of mandatory class every week.\

    Problem w/ his reply:
    Neither of these claims was disputed, as there is — in fact — minimal writing and only 80 minutes of mandatory class per week.

    The lesson:
    When teaching what everyone will recognize as an easy class (at least relative to others), word will spread like wildfire, and you probably shouldn’t be upset when it’s described as one.

  4. Nicholas briggs

    Why not limit the course to people who are concentrating in IR, Political Science, or other concentrations that it may apply to. limiting it to only juniors in seniors when many of us were among the first 300 to register as the class fulfills requirements that we need.

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