Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Fun With Registration

The students are back, which is good and bad. This is the time of year – the last in-person registration before Fall semester – when the emergencies crop up. This is also the time of year when I get blamed for not being psychic: how come I didn’t know that there would be a sudden surge in demand this year for Japanese? Don’t I care about the students? They’re paying a lot of money for this! And it has to be between 10 and 2, no Fridays…

Nothing is quite so humbling to the idealistic academic as in-person registration. The sheer let’s-make-a-deal quality of the interaction is off-putting; any illusion of programmatic coherence becomes impossible to sustain when you see, up close, just how many decisions are made on the basis of what doesn’t conflict with some kid’s job at the bagel shop.

I’d estimate I get lied to about once every ten minutes at registration. I had this at another college – what do you mean you need to see a transcript? It’s not fair that I have to pass algebra before taking engineering – you’re trying to bilk me! And – my personal fave – I took that course before (so what if I failed it?)!

In the spirit of public service, here’s a hint to all the prospective students out there: don’t make a major life decision with less than a week to go. It doesn’t do wonders for your options.

The whole student-as-customer mindset comes crashing headlong into reality at registration. What do you mean I can’t take 15 credits in nine hours? Why can’t I have the most popular time slot at the last minute? Do you have anything really, really easy? I don’t want to have to read. Does that class have homework? I carpool with my friend who works part-time with different hours each week – is that a problem? I have to miss the first three weeks of class – is that a problem? I know it meets on Tuesdays and Fridays, but I have to work on Fridays – is that a problem? I took something sorta similar to that at my old school in Uzbekistan 15 years ago, and left the transcript at home – can’t you sign me in?

Ugh. Times like these, The Boy seems almost grown up.