News’ View: Shopping period must be preserved

As reported on Monday, Associate Registrar Daria Vander Veer is frustrated by the frequent room changes she is forced to make during shopping period, when students are still deciding which courses to take and enrollment numbers remain in flux. She proposes several changes to shopping period, including shortening it to one week; holding seminars twice during the first week in two one-hour blocks; and having students indicate their five first-choice classes, which they are most likely to take.

“The downside is the wear and tear not only on us, but on students as well,” Vander Veer told the News. “Classes where students can’t even get in the door during shopping period, and they just walk away. Books that sell out because people have no idea how big a class is going to be.”

Vander Veer is right to point out that shopping period does not run smoothly for students, professors and administrators. And we appreciate the effort to right its flaws. But shopping period itself is not at fault, for its benefits to Yale’s academic experience far outweigh its inconveniences. We hope Yale does not adopt any measures that would significantly limit students’ ability to shop freely at the beginning of the semester.

Shopping period was one of the things that attracted many of us to Yale as prospective students. And it has proven to be as valuable as we hoped. We need not tell other students that shopping period, perhaps more than any other tool provided by the University, allows students to find the classes, professors and majors that are right for them.

Instead of forcing students to choose classes earlier in the semester, we propose the adoption of two of Vander Veer’s suggestions and others that will require the commitment of professors and administrators like Vander Veer, who have a chance to help all of us toward a less stressful, more rewarding shopping system.

We strongly support Vander Veer’s suggestion that seminars meet twice, back-to-back, during the scheduled time the first week. In this way, students who currently sit through two-hour seminars simply to get their names on waitlists may see more classes and no seminar will be forced to squeeze as many as 70 or 80 people into a single, small classroom the first week.

We also think that a system by which students could indicate first-choice classes — but one that is thoroughly non-binding — could help administrators and professors gauge interest in classes without limiting students’ ability to shop.

Changes should not be purely administrative. We would like to see Yale institute an official policy that professors must select students for capped classes within a short time after the first meeting — within, say, 24 hours. And professors should also help by better advertising in syllabi or by e-mail which students, such as those outside the department or below a certain class year, are not likely to be accepted.

The registrar’s office could also help itself by relying more on course evaluations. That course with great recommendations from the twenty people who took it last year will need a bigger room this year.

The answer is not to limit students’ ability to attend classes freely, but to continue to allow them to choose their courses only after they have had enough time to see all options.

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