Letter: Regulate shopping period

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.

Leslie Brisman

Feb. 2

The writer is the Karl Young professor of English.


  • History Professor

    Bravo, Prof. Brisman! There's just no reason why advising has to be saved for the minute before schedules are due. Use a phone, if you must, but confer *before* the semester even starts.

  • Anonymous

    You have to have a pretty warped mind to compare the greed of Wall Street bankers buying and selling things they don't understand to a student who's really interested in taking two courses that happen to meet during the same class hour. How those two things are in any way comparable I don't understand.

    Rhetorical overreaching aside, though - and after all, the writer is an English professor - I don't have any problem with the proposed fixes. Requiring advisers to meet with students early on would probably help improve the advising system, too.

    Just don't mess with my damn shopping period.

  • Anon

    Worst opinion piece I've ever read. In the context of the opinion expressed "compressing" shopping period is not regulating it, but rather doing away with it altogether. The point of shopping period is that there is not supposed to be work the first day, so that students can attend several class sessions and several different classes that meet at the same time over the course of the period without missing work so that ultimately they can decide what to take.

    Also, the worst analogy ever. Seriously. Just terrible…

  • Dan Spielman

    The suggestion that students meet with their advisors before the semester starts is completely impractical. As DUS of Applied Mathematics, I meet with around 30 students each semester. They are not around for long enough before the fall semester starts, and they have too much else on their minds during the last weeks of class in the fall.

  • Hiero II

    The central problem with this letter's analogy, rhetorical overreach aside, is that it misstates the nature of the current economic crisis.

    Not that I'd expect an English Professor to understand it, but the solution to the problem we see before us today is NOT more regulation. The government's hand was too involved in the subprime mortgage market. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac took risks with de facto taxpayer backing. Other companies were lauded for giving loans that wouldn't be paid back.

    After all, is it really greedy to make loans that will realistically never be paid back?