Tag Archive: Opinion Forum

  1. Forum: Shopping Period

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    With shopping period upon us, students are scrambling to assemble that perfect schedule of seminars, lectures and sections. In this edition of the News’ Forum, our contributors chronicle the ups and downs of this important Yale tradition.

    Scott Stern, Staff Blogger | Sophomore in Branford College

    Shopping period is stressful. As someone who is currently trying to weasel my way into two seminars and decide among four other lectures, I can attest to this. But it’s not just me. Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to has commented on the worry inherent in attending classes for two weeks without knowing whether you’ll actually take them.

    But shopping period is one of Yale’s hottest selling points. To prefrosh (and to my friends at other schools), it sounds highly alluring. You can try a class, and if you don’t like it, you can just get up and leave! To people who would otherwise register months in advance and then have no way out of an annoying class, this sounds great.

    Yet after enjoying and enduring four shopping periods, I agree that the institution needs to be reformed. The remedy, I believe, is quite simple.

    If we were to make seminars exist strictly on a preregistration basis — with absolutely no way to get in after the fact (i.e. annoying emails, refusing to leave, bribery) — shopping period would be saved. Students would still have a week (or two, I don’t care) to “shop” lectures, but the stressful part would be eliminated.

    Students would preregister for seminars by submitting an application stating, say, their first five choices in descending order. Upperclassmen in the major would get an advantage for junior or senior seminars, but everyone else would be chosen via lottery. Residential college seminars and English seminars would use lottery systems — as they do now — but with no wiggle room if the short straw is drawn. (The possible exception to this rule would be language seminars, for which I would suggest additional sections be opened up to satisfy all demand.)

    My solution isn’t perfect. Some may say it’s unduly harsh, or that it misses the point. Sticking around in a seminar, hoping to find a way in, demonstrates true interest as well as stick-to-itiveness. But for every lucky soul chosen late in the game, several more get completely winnowed out — and their final schedule suffers as a result. During shopping period, choices must be made: If I miss the first two classes of a large lecture for a seminar I probably won’t get into, I may find myself hopelessly behind when that lecture becomes my only option.

    The very concept of shopping period works phenomenally well for lectures. It would work better if seminars weren’t a part of the equation.

    Jennifer Gersten, Contributor | Freshman in Saybrook College

    Freshmen haven’t been at Yale long enough to use the word “always.” We don’t always screw up; we screwed up first semester — and there’s time to do something about it.

    But it feels as though I’m still dancing the awkward shopping period dance I set ineptly for myself in the fall. Back then, I had 19 courses on my schedule, an agglomeration of hues on Yale Blue Book that put my Crayola box to shame. But just a few hours ago, I reluctantly eliminated course 20, “Neurolinguistics,” from Spring 2013, version five. That brings the number of overlapping courses during that time slot from a preposterous four to a totally manageable three. I should probably log off before I find a replacement, but it’s hard when every course seems like the one.

    My parents couldn’t care less what I decide to be. Whether as a doctor, lawyer or burger flipper (and there are no other viable options, just so we’re clear), if I’m happy, they’re happy. And maybe that sounds wonderful, but it’s not. Picking a major is far too complicated without a rigid imperative from the Mr. and Mrs.

    If you don’t know what it’s like having parents this tolerant, I guess I could come up with an analogy. It’s like being offered a kazillion courses, but someone says that you can only take a few, and two meet at the same time, and you need to apply to some, and there’s no QR for people who need to review their times tables — does anyone know what that’s like?

    For now, it feels like the only “always” I’ll ever be is “lost.” To be honest, though, I can’t think of a nicer labyrinth in which to wander.

  2. Forum: International Affairs

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    With the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, continuing discussion of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s comments on the Benghazi attacks and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s announcement of new powers, international issues have dominated recent news. What do you think the most important international event was over the past week? Hear from our columnists in the Yale Daily News Forum:

    Scott Stern, Staff Columnist | Sophomore in Branford College 
    The most important international event of the last week took place in the Middle East — but not where you think. South of Israel and east of Egypt, you’ll see Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive a car. It’s a country where all women, regardless of their age, must have a male guardian. It’s a country, stiflingly hot, where women must be completely covered in traditional dress and the force of the law.

    But for women in Saudi Arabia, life managed to get worse.

    Saudi Arabia took an Orwellian turn last week, when it began using new technology to track women attempting to leave the country. Now, when a woman arrives at the airport or at a border, an electronic monitoring system will automatically send a text message to her male guardian — even if he is traveling with her. This new policy replaces an already repressive rule, which required women to receive written permission to travel outside the kingdom’s borders.

    Saudi Arabia’s new system makes even harder the only means that women have to escape its cruel regime: fleeing. Now, more than ever before, women are trapped. Saudi journalists are already suggesting that the country might take the next logical step and implant tracking chips in women.

    But Saudi Arabia is an American ally. We ignore its brutal discrimination and rely on its stability in a volatile region, as well as its seemingly bottomless oil supply. To stop its increasingly repressive policies, we must move toward energy independence. We must arouse the international community — as we have against Iran and the Taliban — and use economic sanctions if necessary. International affairs are never simple, but equality is. At least, it should be.

    Xiuyi Zheng, Guest Columnist | Junior in Davenport College
    Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, you know about President Obama’s resounding victory over Mitt Romney. What you may not have heard about is the results of the Chinese “election” that took place over the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) about two weeks ago.

    “Who” is out, “She” is in.

    As has been widely speculated for years, a 59-year-old bureaucrat named Xi Jingping overtook the post of secretary-general of the CCP from his predecessor, Hu Jintao.

    Who, you ask?

    Xi, pronounced “Hsi” (it’s close to “She”), is the son of a famous revolutionary leader, and thus born into party politics. He led the party apparatus in the coastal provinces of Fujian, Zhejiang and later Shanghai before being tapped by party elders as Hu’s successor.

    Next in line from Xi on the newly elected Politburo Standing Committee is soon-to-be Prime Minister Li Keqiang. The size of the all-powerful committee was cut from nine seats to seven, in efforts to reduce political deadlock from within and promote efficiency.

    Despite having already established their leadership of the CCP, Xi and Li will formally assume their more general administrative roles as president of China and prime minister, respectively, in the spring of 2013.

    Same Old, Same Old

    While Xi brims with a vitality difficult to find in his departing predecessor, there is little reason to believe that he and the rest of the newly elected Standing Committee members will institute any significant changes to China’s political environment.

    A quick glance down the seven-man list reveals an apparent victory for the conservative faction within the CCP. Five of the positions were reportedly decided by 86-year-old retired party chief Jiang Zemin, known for his political opportunism and feverish devotion to economic growth at all costs.

    As China’s growth inevitably decelerates with its withering exports industry and a dangerously expanding property bubble, to stick to the old doctrine of “GDP growth above all” and continued suppression of mass movements amounts to political suicide.

    The new Chinese leadership faces monumental challenges in the form of rapidly widening social inequality, ubiquitous corruption and a serious developmental bottleneck in its overreliance on fixed-asset investment. While it is clear that China desperately needs bold political reform, it seems that the new leadership will be neither willing nor well-equipped enough to tackle these challenges.

    Cristo Liautaud, Guest Columnist | Junior in Davenport

    The International Energy Agency’s report on future U.S. oil production probably represents the most significant international political development in the past week. According to the agency’s models, shale gas reserves and oil-rich regions will fuel the United States’ lead in global oil production by 2020. By the 2030s, North America should become a net exporter of oil.

    So why does some research publication deserve as much attention as the Israel-Gaza conflict, President Morsi’s power grab or President Obama’s tour of Southeast Asia?

    From an economic perspective, commentators expect a boom in the American natural gas industry, as well as an almost doubling of domestic manufacturing jobs due to reduced fuel costs. Up to 1.5 million manufacturing jobs dismissed as “never coming back” could reappear.

    From a foreign policy perspective, oil independence could signal a strategic reorientation away from the Middle East, due of course to reduced dependence on the region’s oil. Perhaps more importantly, the U.S. could participate in China’s thirst for energy. If tactfully applied, the added dimension to the trade partnership could improve bilateral relations and somewhat ease resource tensions in Southeast Asia.

    From an environmental perspective, experts remain concerned that depressed natural gas prices could stifle focus on green technologies, as well as multilateral urgency to sign emission agreements.

    Why should we care at Yale? In the short-term, the report may not flood our Twitter feeds in the same way as other Thanksgiving developments. In the long-term, however, U.S. oil independence has the potential to reshape some of our campus’s most explored topics, inside and outside of the classroom.

    Want to contribute to the Forum? Email opinion@yaledailynews.com