November 9, 2010

Fast-Filling (Required) Courses

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I am a self-proclaimed “CoursEnroll Hater,” a phrase coined by Ruby Perlmutter ’13 in her opinion piece two weeks ago. Perlmutter portrayed Cornell’s system of course selection in a positive light; and much of what she said, though slightly romanticized, was true. Students have a lot of time to add or drop classes, and it’s great that we can go online to officially change our courses. However, while I too sometimes flip through the course selection guide wide-eyed, dreaming of endless possibilities and academic creativity, I quickly become discouraged, realizing that this is just a fantasy for us science majors.

I love my major, and am legitimately excited to take (most of) my required courses. Yet while liberal arts majors are given requirements such as “take a pre-Civil War history class” with various classes that fulfill the requirement, many science majors are given requirements like, “take Chemistry 3580.” While there is still some room for variation in courses, science requirements are not nearly as broad or flexible as liberal arts requirements. So when we wake up at 7 a.m. and can only get into two of the five classes we need before Student Center inevitably crashes, the freedom provided by CoursEnroll loses its appeal. Suddenly, we must join waitlists, email professors and visit the registrar countless times during our “shopping” period.

Fighting for an elective is one thing. But a graduation requirement should not be so hard to get into. I just don’t buy that there isn’t enough room, especially when I sit in class and look around at a half-full lecture hall. We just built a new Physical Sciences building with 80 new laboratories, yet there isn’t room for me in chemistry lab?

Dear Cornell, you accepted me into your school, now please let me take your classes!

Of course, it all works out in the end for those of us with tight requirements. No one has ever failed to graduate because Student Center crashed on him or her every semester during pre-enroll, but this is not the point. In the midst of prelims, projects, internship applications and the drama that is our daily lives at this university, enrolling in classes adds an extraneous level of stress. At a time when we are looking to improve the mental well-being of our undergraduates, we need a change at the policy level.

In the Hotel School, freshmen and sophomore’s classes are picked for them due to specific, time-sensitive requirements. I propose that a similar system be put in place for other majors who have many required classes that fill up quickly. If students are required to take a certain class, they should be guaranteed a spot. If there is one thing that students should not have to worry about at Cornell, it should be their ability to take their required courses.

Morgan Bookheimer is a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology. She may be contacted at mtb92@cornell.edu. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.

Original Author: Morgan Bookheimer