Shop ‘til you drop

By on October 7, 2011

As a male, I think shopping should be a right. Yes, ladies (especially) and gentlemen, you read correctly: a right. Not a privilege, not a recommended policy, a right. I am talking about class shopping, of course. Administrators need not worry, though; it will not be nearly as bad as you might think.

Contrary to popular belief, college is all about learning. No, college is not some elaborate guise conjured up as an excuse for a 4-year party. Only a blessed few college students know exactly what they want to study when they come to college, or in many cases, even after a few years.

Why not present students with as many opportunities as possible for them to discover what really piques their interest? Give students a week or two to sit in on lectures, see the professor, glimpse the material, and learn what to expect from the course. If they like what they see, they can sign up; if not, nothing is lost. Students would only benefit from such a policy.

Professors, though, would probably not appreciate coping with large fluctuations in class size during the first few weeks of classes. After all, the more personable professors usually spend the first week or so trying to learn students’ names to create a more intimate class setting.

However, could professors refuse to allow students who are genuinely interested to be in their class? After all, what they teach is what they have spent most of their lives learning. Inspiring younger minds to follow in the same path should be a common goal of all professors.

Administrators, in contrast, may expect to be overwhelmed by students adding classes, dropping classes and issuing overrides. That would probably not happen, though. Gone are the days of calling the registrar’s office to register for classes; it is all done online.

Students have become adept at registering for classes on their own with little aid from the registrar, barring some extreme circumstances. Also, students will register for their required courses to secure their spots. After that, they can just sign up for classes after they have finished shopping.

What about class caps and prerequisites? Obviously, priority should be given to those students who registered for classes over those who are just shopping. Even with caps, many professors are willing to make exceptions for especially interested students, which will be up to their discretion.

As for prerequisites that bar students from taking certain classes, let students register for whichever classes they want. If they really want to take the class and feel that they can make the grade, they should be able to take the class – even for classes with obvious prerequisites such as math.

Students may lack some common sense, but they have a knack for knowing if they are in too deep. After all, that is why we are allowing them to shop around. I am not advocating removing prerequisites, but I am advocating giving students the option of taking classes for which they lack the prerequisites.

Such a policy would give students more discretion about their studies and free the administration from the tedious work of giving overrides. Students will know whether or not they can keep up. After all, it is their grade that they are worried about; they will not do anything that carries a great risk of dropping their GPA.

UAB strives to be a top school and we are well on our way. Allowing students to shop around for classes gives them more freedom to explore and maybe find something surprising. Allowing students to enrich themselves without having to fear the strangling tentacles of bureaucracy that can suffocate the registration process gives students the chance to take care of themselves.

There is no better teacher than experience, so why prevent students from seeking diverse experiences?

Mallick Hossain

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