Wednesday, November 20

Communication studies lecturer claims restrictions on class enrollment

Keith Fink, a lecturer in the communication studies department, said the department is not allowing him to overenroll students in his class, Communication Studies 167: "Sex, Politics and Race: Free Speech on Campus", this quarter. (Miriam Bribiesca/Photo editor)

Keith Fink, a lecturer in the communication studies department, said the department is not allowing him to overenroll students in his class, Communication Studies 167: "Sex, Politics and Race: Free Speech on Campus", this quarter. (Miriam Bribiesca/Photo editor)

Dozens of UCLA students are frustrated with their inability to enroll in a communication studies class this quarter, despite receiving a permission-to-enroll number from their instructor.

Keith Fink, a lecturer in the communication studies department, said his PTE numbers were not honored this quarter for Communication Studies 167: “Sex, Politics and Race: Free Speech on Campus.” He said he gave 41 paper and electronic PTE numbers total to students who attended his first class Jan. 11. The next day, he received several emails from students who were unenrolled from the course by the UCLA Registrar’s Office.

He said the department does not agree with his conservative ideology and wants to restrict him from informing students of their rights. This is the first time he has been unable to enroll students with electronic and paper PTE numbers in a decade of teaching at UCLA.

“I am a voice of a teacher who’s not going to go away,” Fink said. “When I see an injustice toward students, I am going to fight.”

Fink added that Kerri Johnson, the new chair of the communication studies department who assumed the position fall quarter, also restricted his class size for Communication Studies M172: “Free Speech in Workplace,” a course he will teach spring 2017. It will have a decreased enrollment cap of 150 and will be taught in a smaller lecture hall, which seats 171 students.

Johnson, an associate professor in communication studies, said departmental chairs are not usually involved in classroom assignments and was unfamiliar with Fink’s political orientation before he mentioned it in a recent email.

“It is quite common for classrooms to shift this far in advance of the next quarter to meet various demands,” she said. “I was unaware that the change had been made until Mr. Fink brought it to my attention.”

According to the UCLA Registrar, students can enroll in a course with the instructor’s permission through the issuance of a PTE number, which guarantees a student’s enrollment when the class has reached its capacity. However, Fink said the communication studies department restricted him from enrolling more than 200 students this quarter.

Fink said Communication Studies 167 was at capacity when he gave out the PTEs. The class, which meets in Rolfe 1200, can hold 293 occupants.

He said every year before Johnson became chair, he had been given 30 electronic PTEs for the class. Last year, he issued 23 manual PTEs beyond the ordinary 30 allotted.

However, Johnson said no PTE numbers were allocated for the class as consistent with previous years, so none were actually denied. She said paper petitions require approval from the College of Letters and Sciences and are only used in rare occasions after Friday of week three.

“I am well familiar with UCLA’s rules,” Fink said. “This is a violation of academic freedom, a violation of (UCLA’s) own rules and students’ rights. Students are not being treated with equity here.”

Eric Wells, the committee analyst for the Undergraduate Council in the Academic Senate, said many departments have their own policies that might impact how PTEs are administered. He added there is no practical difference between a paper PTE and an electronic PTE.

“A department might not allow any PTE beyond capacity because they believe the learning environment might suffer due to overenrollment,” Wells said. “Other departments will routinely overenroll up to the room capacity.”

Other lecturers in the department said they have not had problems with their PTE numbers. Michael Suman, who teaches Communication Studies 10: “Introduction to Communication Studies,” said he has not had his PTEs dishonored this quarter. Greg Bryant, who teaches Communication Studies 100: “Communication Theory,” said he has never overenrolled his classes in his 12 years of teaching in the department.

Andrew Litt, the teaching assistant for Fink’s class this quarter, said the department has historically closed the class after the first day so seats could be filled by students who attended and received a PTE.

“Without ever telling (Fink) about anything, she essentially began interfering with the long-standing practice of how enrollment has been dealt with,” Litt said.

Litt said he thinks the department has exacerbated the problem by not providing a waitlist and allowing students who were “class-shopping” to fill at least 15 open seats.

Taryn Jacobson, a fourth-year political science student who was given a PTE number and denied enrollment, said she feels frustrated with the department’s bureaucracy and administrative obstacles. She said she wanted to enroll because she is interested in the class material and convenient time.

“I have limited hours in the day to take classes,” Jacobson said. “This class is of utmost importance to me, being that I want to go to law school and (Fink) has so much knowledge to offer.”

Jacobson said she will be enrolled in only eight units this quarter and will have to delay her graduation if she cannot enroll in the course.

Fink said he has spoken with his union representative and the ombudsman, who assists in resolving conflicts between members of the University community.

“This is an important issue,” Fink said. “Most people don’t stand up to the administration when they are wronged, either out of ignorance of their rights or fear that their situation will be exacerbated if they challenge the school.”


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  • Robin Wells

    I can relate to these students frustrations about PTE code adds
    for Comm 167 and 172. As a non-communications major I denied access to Professor Fink’s 167 and 172 classes due to enrollment restrictions. But fortunately Professor Fink allowed me to add
    and provided a PTE code.

    Little did I know how a PTE code would change the course of my academic and career goals. I am grateful to Professor Fink for not only the add but also for sharing
    his extensive law knowledge – in an undergrad class.

    It’s tragic that UCLA blocks other majors/students from access to areas of undergrad education – it definitely discriminatory. And it inhibits diversity of thought and ideas in a college classroom, which is exactly where the free exchange of ideas should take place!

    Thankfully when I took Professor Fink’s Comm 167 and 172 Professor Kerri Johnson was not the Co-Chair of Comm Dept.!

    Viva la Professor Fink keep defending the students rights to academic diversity in classes, non-comm majors access, and diversity of thought/ideas!

  • Salute

    I can relate to the frustration these students are vocalizing. I also needed a PTE code to enroll in Professor Fink’s Comm 167. As a gender studies major this class was inaccessible to me 1st enrollment period and full by the 2nd enrollment period. Fortunately, Professor Fink allowed me to add by giving me a PTE code during the 1st class.

    Little did I know how a PTE code would change the course of academic and career goals. Towards, a definitive passion for the study of law. By limiting the number of students and blocking non-comm students from 1st round enrollment period, and by 2nd round the class is full. So, essentially Comm 167 and 172 as elective courses should not have barriers that make them inaccessible to other majors/
    students – it’s definitely academic discrimination.

    I’m a UCLA 2016 Law Fellow and law school applicant; who is very grateful to Professor Fink for adding me and sharing his wealth of legal knowledge – to a newbie.!. By Professor Johnson limiting access
    to these classes for all non-comm majors, it’s creating structural barriers to education – I object!

    As luck would have it, Kerri Johnson was not the Assistant Comm Chair in 2015 when I took this class.

    Viva la Professor Fink may he win this PTE add issue, so that Comm 167 and 172 are accessible to other majors and continue the fight for freedom of speech and academic freedom, as well.!. Professor Fink is a true advocate for diversity of thought and ideas in his classrooms!

  • roccolore

    Democrats are scared of the truth.

  • Karen Bayer


  • Ryan Rosario (DataJunkie)

    I feel bad for that poor teaching assistant that will now feel the wrath of the Department Chair after being quoted in this article.