October 26, 2010

Take Heed, CoursEnroll Haters

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It’s almost time for course registration, and for many, this date can seem jarringly early and induce some unsavory stress. Personally, the necessity of fulfilling requirements and planning ahead for the rest of my time at Cornell just recently registered, and as a result the colossal course catalogue triggers a paralysis of indecision. Eventually, it’s easy to chalk up course selection to requirements and forget that, in fact, Cornell’s course enrollment system is pretty good.

First of all, Cornell offers a lot of courses. According to the University’s website, the College of Arts and Sciences offers 2,200 courses each year, and 250 courses are added each year. Arts and Sciences students can also choose from 2,000 courses outside of the college as well as courses from among 40 languages. While this may not exactly render CoursEnroll less daunting, it does provide some hope for enrollment in courses taken out of interest rather than just courses taken out of duty. At the very least, the possibility of finding an appealing professor always exists.

Of course, it’s impossible to determine whether or not you will like a professor based on the course catalogue. The best way to find out is to go to the first few lectures — yet the pressure to choose courses so far in advance can often hinder the inclination for trial and error. However, pre-registration is just that: registration before registration.

I have often been overwhelmed when looking through courses, switching from wide-eyed enthusiasm to indifference and pessimism, only to snarl and wish we had “shopping week” like Yale does. The thing is, we do — and we also have pre-registration. In short, Cornell provides undergrads with the security of pre-enrollment with the freedom to change our minds.

Yale’s shopping week, as defined on the college’s website is: A week “during which you consider alternative courses … It is a useful way to look at classes you are interested in without having to sign up for them immediately … Please be aware that classes conducted during the first two weeks of the term are regular, full-fledged classes in which readings and homework are assigned, so you should be prepared to keep up with assignments and participate fully in each class that you may wish to visit.” Essentially, Yale took add/drop and gave it a fancy name.

Cornellians can shop too. If we allow pre-enrollment to function as a fallback, an outline, then we can use the first few weeks of the semester to explore our options. We have the freedom to make truly informed decisions. Yale’s “shopping week” does not exempt students from commitment to course work, and, in fact, the website discourages students from trying too many courses: “We encourage you, therefore, to limit the number of different courses you plan to visit and to settle on a course schedule as quickly as possible.” So essentially, we may as well call our first week of class shopping week too and judge our classes in the most reliable way — by actually trying them.

Further, the Cornell course catalogue has a lot to appreciate. Of the 600 members of the Arts and Sciences faculty, 600 of them teach undergraduate classes and advise undergraduates. This does not mean that every course is taught by a professor, but students do have constant access to professors. And professors talk to other professors. If there’s a class you like, perhaps that professor can recommend another course. At Cornell, we’re provided with such a wealth of resources that (while many of us do) a lot of us don’t take advantage of.

In addition, the online process of enrolling in courses makes it much easier for us to create our schedules than it would were courses still registered manually. Granted, it’s a pain to wake up for CoursEnroll and not be able to log in because everybody else at Cornell is trying to log in simultaneously. Yet the fact that students have the power to officially change courses at will provides a sense of freedom that students at other universities don’t get.

Some transactions require physical paper, but for the most part, during pre-enrollment and again during add/drop, we at Cornell have the power to easily change our minds and our courses. What’s more, we’re allowed the added security of knowing we’re enrolled — even if we’re not sure we’ll stay in the course —as well as the independence to make a decision and put it to action. On a semester-by-semester level, we have the ability to develop our own curriculums, granted certain guidelines are met. So, while Cornell may not give it a nifty name, our CoursEnroll system gives students quite a bit of control over what we study.

Ruby Perlmutter is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences and a Sun Arts and Entertainment Editor. She may be contacted at rperlmutter@cornellsun.com. Having Said That appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

Original Author: Ruby Perlmutter