Remember shopping period freshman year, when you leafed through the mysterious blue book? Trying to find the freshman requirements in that thing was like trying to find the word “blog” in the Bible.
Among other things, you couldn’t figure out what “1 HTBA” meant.
But you would soon find out. During the second week of shopping period, you went to a class that you had decided on, a class that you knew only met on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You knew it only met on Tuesdays and Thursdays because the blue book said so.
Then, in this class, the professor passed out sign-up sheets for this mystifying thing called “section.”
“Section?” you thought, “Section of what? What the hell is going on? Am I drunk?”
You got one of the sign-up sheets and realized section was some sort of extra class. Eventually, you figured out that every class that had this “section” thing also had the “1 HTBA” label in the blue book. After asking around, you found out “HTBA” meant “hour to be arranged.”
Apparently, you were the only person on campus who didn’t know that. You also learned that your participation was graded in these sections. The whole situation just seemed suspicious, like you were in the middle of some sort of Truman Show-esque prank.
Now, over two years later, I still have no idea why we have section. It’s an enigma, a mystery wrapped in a riddle, like Newman on Seinfeld.
What I do know is that “HTBA” actually stands for one of two things, depending on the person: “hour to be annoying” or “hour to be asleep.” There is no middle ground — either you are one of those “section people” and section is the highlight of your day, or you are normal, and you don’t do the readings but you plan ahead by constructing one bullcrap comment to throw into the discussion to get your participation points.
For the remainder of the class, you fantasize about that scenario with Jennifer Garner, Lois Lane, a circular bed and a jar of salsa con queso, preferably microwaved.
Maybe our buddies from the CBS boardroom, the ones that came up with all those CSI variations, were behind the invention of section:
Rich CBS exec/college administrator #1: Hey, here’s a great idea: let’s have classes, OK, where a professor teaches. But then, we’ll have an extra mini-class to bolster the lecture and the readings!
Rich CBS exec/college administrator #2: Brilliant! And a nervous grad student can teach it!
Rich exec/administrator #1: Brilliant! The students will be put into an artificial debate-like atmosphere to force discussion about the teachings. But here’s the catch: most students won’t actually want to engage, so we’ll make participation in this mini-class count for 10% of their grade!
Rich exec/administrator #2: Brilliant! We’ll surely get profound and insightful comments that way! And we can schedule these mini-classes during prime drinking or sleeping hours. We’ll call it “discussion section.” Get it, “discussion,” because they discuss?
Rich exec/administrator #1: Hey … while we’re at it, how about CSI: The College Years? It worked for Saved by the Bell. Secretary, go call Bob Golic!
Together: BRILLIANT! LET’S GO FROLIC IN THE PARK!!
How did administrators actually believe section would foster intelligent debate, promote the class readings and exercise the mind?
In non-administrator world (a.k.a. reality), all section does is make you hate more tools at Yale. Or, if you are a tool, section sexually arouses you because you get to hear your own voice for an hour of orgasmic self-profundity. And if you’re a TA, it lets you say, “Yea, that’s a really good point” for an hour in a wavering, meek voice while futilely trying to direct an aimless, artificially constructed debate.
Then you join GESO, the make-believe grad student union, and threaten to strike because you hate teaching section so much.
As an undergrad, I beg you, please, please go on strike to end this section business. Now, I know technically you can’t go on strike because your union is make-believe, but maybe those in administrator world (which is also a world of make-believe) will legitimate your actions.
Section is the worst idea since they started showing actual commercials before the previews at movies. I came to Yale to be taught by amazing professors (and to get rich), not to listen to what some kid has to say about why James K. Polk is his favorite president.
Section and the tools who enjoy it are more annoying than a group of drunk girls singing along to “Like a Prayer.” I need section like the world needs another performance of “Let’s Get It Started” by the Black Eyed Peas.
(I’m pretty sure that song came out in 1999, but somehow they sneaked it into this year’s Grammy’s.)
Section is the Ron Artest to the student’s David Stern, the Patriot Act to the student’s ACLU, the Israel to the student’s Palestine. Please, somebody, find a suspension, a lawsuit or a ceasefire for this mess.
Otherwise, I’ll be forced to search the pages of the blue book for classes without that nefarious “1 HTBA” label. And that’s like trying to find the word “blog” in the Bible.
Carl Williott would have been in section, but he was too busy watching Alias.