Collision on the Course

As the befogged undergraduate emerges from the grey haze of examination period, he stumbles through his one-day vacation, signs his two registration cards- and then finds himself confronted with a bewildering tangle of courses, most of which somehow meet at the same time. Completely stymied, he wanders aimlessly from course to course for a week, seeking that missing ideal combination. Professors generally denounce this "shopping," yet the faculty itself does little to prevent it. If courses within fields of concentration conflicted less, students would be able to choose their courses with greater satisfaction on all sides.

The need for a more efficient method of scheduling classes becomes apparent in considering the problem of concentrators whose fields hold general examinations in the Junior year. Desiring to take as many courses as possible in his field before the examination, a student of the Renaissance is dismayed to discover that courses in Renaissance art, history, and literature are all offered at the same time. At present, there is no central organization set up to prevent conflicts among courses dealing with one period or one country. As a result, course conflicts are not often perceived until the publication of the year's catalogue, and at this point any changes are more confusing than constructive. Sometimes the Committee on Educational Policy, the only central organ at all, hears of conflicts, but usually only when they are among popular courses. Generally, the faculty attitude is that attempts at rational systems are fruitless and that the scheduling of courses is and should be an organic process.

To a great degree, conflicts in courses are inevitable. This, however, should not license the faculty to throw up its hands in passive submission to its own apathy. Measurable improvements could result from the establishment of informal committees, formed by representatives of various departments concerned with specific periods or regional studies. For example, there might be a committee of History, Literature, Fine Arts, and Philosophy representatives, which would concentrate on conflicts of courses dealing with the 19th century. Programs, such as studies in American Civilization, which are already organized, but are at present unconcerned with the scheduling of courses, might work to smooth the way within their particular fields. The faculty need not be disturbed by the threat of bureaucratic strangulation of liberal education, since these informal committees operating in a few key fields would meet only once or twice a year.

These committees would ease several aspects of course conflicts, but they could accomplish little without another modification of the present system-more even distribution of courses among the various examination groups. Largely because of faculty preference, in many departments the bulk of undergraduate courses are scheduled on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 10 and 11 and on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 10. If, in spite of faculty and student pressures, more of these courses could be distributed, and interdepartmental committees would be enabled to accomplish something beneficial, if not striking. Although no one expects the great morass of courses ever to develop any coherent form, improvements can be made if the faculty will only consider a more logical curriculum important enough to bestir itself.