February 17, 2010

#7: Booze-Up (in Class)

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On the first day of each semester, I can walk into all of my classes and put them into one of two categories — those in which I feel I know everyone and those in which I feel I know no one. Sophomore year, I looked around AEM 240: Marketing and knew the names of every single person within eyesight. (Granted I took this course before admitting to myself that I am completely blind without glasses, so my range of vision only extended a few seats in every direction, but you get the idea.) These see-and-be-seen classes are fun, but the anti-social streak in me grows a little tired of them. Friday morning, Marketing was especially off-putting — I don’t feel a strong desire to catch up with everyone who lived on my freshman floor when I’m wearing pajamas and haven’t brushed my hair.

Of course, the familiarity of the faces in lecture hall is largely subjective. On a campus of Cornell’s size, it is highly unlikely that every student would walk into a 500-person class and be able to recognize a good portion of faces. There are some courses, however, which seem to belie this logic. These are the courses that have found their way onto the 161 things list.

I can’t speak to the social atmosphere of Plant Pathology 2010: Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds (#69 on the Big Red Ambition list), and although I have not taken Psych 101 (#9 on the list), I know exactly whom I would have sat between if I had enrolled in the course, either freshman or sophomore year. Psych 101 is a large enough class that I suspect that most students, especially underclassmen, feel like everyone they know is in it — with 1300 people enrolled, almost everyone you know is probably in it.

Like most other students at Cornell, I’ve been dying to take Hotel Administration 430: Introduction to Wines (#7 on the 161 Things list) since the guide on my Cornell Days campus tour gave that spiel about how famous the course is and how New York State amended the drinking age requirement so that underage students can take it. Wines is a senior (and junior hotelie) rite of passage, and naturally, almost everyone I asked had pre-enrolled in the course.

When I stepped into Wines on the first Wednesday of this semester, I immediately recognized that Statler Auditorium had transformed into the scene of all academic scenes. The first day, students arrived in distinct groups — entire pledge classes of various Greek organizations walked in together, as did multiple athletic teams and student organizations. The setting was more like a high school cafeteria than a typical Cornell class, and I can’t really say I was surprised. When the professor showed us a live view of the class, I felt as if the camera were panning through everyone I’ve met in the past four years.

The following week we moved to alphabetically assigned seats. Though I didn’t know my next-seat neighbor, I hardly found myself in a sea of unfamiliar faces. My request for an aisle seat had transported me into the same section as two of my roommates, and many others I knew were in eye-contact distance. (This range has improved somewhat as I have thus far remembered to bring glasses to every Wines class).

The course itself is rather interesting and extremely well taught; it is exactly the class I have been excitedly awaiting taking for the past four years. And though it’s unnecessary to state, I must say, the fact that you’re getting credit for consuming alcohol is fabulous. Though there is plenty of information (and wine) to soak up in lecture, it’s impossible for me to separate Wines from the people with whom I take it. Even the post-class activities are an event; at the time of this writing, there have been just three classes, yet I’m already starting to recognize the “regulars” who storm the Regents Lounge at 4:55. Thankfully, this is one scene I’ll never have to endure on a Friday morning.

Original Author: Jenni Warne