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A Better Shopping Period

By Corinne E. Funk

As yet another shopping period draws to a close and the study cards are in, students can finally begin to relax. No matter how much stress looms ahead, little can compare to the unique combination of summer camp and Russian roulette that is shopping period.

Days consist of visiting too many classes, trying to create that delicate balance of cores, requirements, and personal enrichment. Students feel compelled to buy books for any course there is a slim chance they may end up with on their study card for fear other students might do the same. As the week goes on, there is usually a lottery of that essential core the day before study cards are due.

Shopping period used to sound like a good idea. However, things have definately gone too far. Consider a large Economics course that met in Sever Hall last week. Students arrived up to a half hour early to get seats, which were filled almost immediately. TFs had handed out all of the syllabi shortly thereafter, and heard sectioning complaints and gripes that all the books were back-ordered until the professor arrived and decided to move the class to nearby Emerson Hall.

Before the words left his mouth, students were running out the door, strategically trying out an assortment of different exit patterns to ensure the shortest route to Emerson. Moments later, all the seats were filled in the new room, and many students were left standing. A request for yet another room has not been answered.

This system must be changed. There is no bigger waste of time than to spend a week at college as a spectator, often one without a seat..

Certainly, creative solutions can be found. Remember reading period, the only time less productive than shopping period? Why not block off a day during spring reading period for shopping of upcoming department or core area offerings?

Of course, student apathy or the difficulty of dragging bracketed professors back to campus probably make this compromise unworkable, and shopping will still be a hassle no matter when it happens. Better yet, why not abolish shopping altogether?

Imagine a world in which class begins without shopping:

Registration would really mean registering for class, not just registering existence.

The Coop would have the right number of books, all in stock, and you could complain about the prices instead of the empty shelves. You could even get to do the first assignment instead of starting off the second week of school already behind.

No one would be lotteried out of a class they want to take. Bigger rooms could be secured in plenty of time, and extra TFs could be hired.

Sourcebooks could be distributed in class and be term-billed automatically to registered students.

Students could still visit courses during the first week in school, but with add/drop in mind. As a result fewer people would be walking in and out of the room throughout the lecture.

No matter how great it sounds in principal, shopping period is no longer about student choice. It is about finding the biggest guts and the classes that have no final exam or Friday lectures.

Is it too much to ask to expect to go to school where none of the classes are jokes and professors do not have to audition for student acceptance?

No student should have to take a class that is unfulfilling. Pre-registration combined with a liberal add/drop policy would still support this principle, and at the same time take a lot of the stress away from coming back to school. When choice becomes chaos, it is no longer worth having.

Corrine E. Funk's column appears on alternate Tuesdays.

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