What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I'm sure it'll be fine (part one)

When course registration opens at a large campus, students scramble from their dorm rooms like beetles away from the light and approach the registrar's office with all haste. Not getting into the right classes means not graduating on time, which threatens scholarship money and prospects with the females. As much as nobody wants to be a Van Wilder, nobody wants to date a Van Wilder.

My father tells of a time when he trudged wearily through miles of packed snow to get to the registrar's office in time to have a prayer of possibly making it into his class. He had to fight away crazed radical feminists and environmentalists and the occasional Volvo-driving professors who want to audit the class on lower mammalian art because it sounds "interesting."

Maybe that was the model a few decades ago. Today, the iPod generation has vastly improved on the nonsensical student stampede by automating the entire process and putting it online. Instead of careening down to the registrar's office like crazed soccer fans, we students have "appointment times" with the computer. We sit down at an authorized terminal and tell the silicon which classes we want to take. It's all very sophisticated.

Equipped with a series of five digit codes given me by a human being, I marched into the library at the appointed time and took a seat at my authorized terminal. The computer keys were sticky and it looked like there was a hair stuck between the "D" and the "F," so I made a mental note to wash my hands after entering my information. I checked and double checked the numbers (a plastic sign above the computer advised a "re-double check," but I thought that was overkill) and then clicked submit.

In a semester system and in order to graduate in four years, many full-time students take four 4-unit classes. This sixteen unit load is exactly one-eighth of the requirement for a four-year degree and, if completed expeditiously, will get the student through the revolving academic door in the time frame promised in the school's glossy promotional material. Ever since I'd read the school pamphlet, this had been my plan.

The screen went white for several seconds and then a faded image of our school's logo appeared in the center along with a twirling hourglass. It was working!

The hourglass twirled and twirled tirelessly, daring me to look away. My eyes were mesmerized by the movement and I thought that I could stay there forever in a sort of computer generated nirvana. I didn't feel anything anywhere, but knew that sensations were possible because I saw the movement on-screen. Then, more abruptly than it had begun, the logo disappeared and a happy looking emoticon appeared above text telling me that I was successfully registered.

That's when I did something uncharacteristically intelligent: I read through the rest of the notification. You see, I hadn't actually signed up for all the classes, as the friendly logo led me to believe. Rather, I had registered for three of my four classes. In very fine print at the bottom of the page, I was instructed to "consult [my] professor" about the last class. It said something else about a prerequisite, too, but I was already on my way out the door.

1 comment:

Kirk said...

Ah! the beautiful 4x4 model! If only it worked as well in reality as it does in theory! Unfortunately for me, my department still follows a 5-class-3-unit plan: more work for less credit!