It is interesting to consider the reopening of the question of shopping period against the larger backdrop of our national scrutiny of unregulated economic behavior. As President Obama said in his inaugural address, “Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices.”
If students who shop 10 courses the first week of classes — and especially if students who shop more than one course per class hour those first few days — may be justly accused of greed and irresponsibility, we (faculty and administrators) can with equal justice be accused of failing to make the hard choices about regulation of this academic economy.
Yet in truth the choices that administrators and faculty need to make are not that hard — and not that hard on students. Daria Vander Veer has already proposed that students be required to inform the Registrar of their top five choices among the courses they will shop, sometime prior to the beginning of the semester. This would hardly be a major infringement on the freedom of choice. It would help still more if students were required to consult with their advisers the week before fall semester begins or, for spring semester, sometime before the winter recess, and file statements of probable programs. Such minimal returns to “regulation” would inject more than minimal sense of responsibility into shopping period.
And faculty members could inject a lot more if they would regularly take seriously the beginning of the semester’s work the first day classes meet. I have found that it does wonders for compressing the shopping period if, in the course I teach where shopping seems most out of hand the first day, I require a brief writing assignment for the second session. Yes, there are a few students who complete the assignment and nonetheless drop the course; but on the whole, students simply make up their minds earlier, to the advantage of faculty, registrar and (most important) themselves.
Some form of advance planning, before the first day of classes, would be the minimal, responsible brake on the madness of the current “deregulated” market.
The writer is the Karl Young professor of English.