Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Students Deserve Shopping Privileges

Someday I’ll buy a car. If I can put it off for a year or two by living in a city with good public transit, all the better. But I know I’m going to need a car sooner or later.

A car is a big purchase. I’ll price out the different options. Doing that will probably encourage me to do whatever it takes to be certain I’m not getting a lemon.

And when I’ve narrowed down my selections, I’ll go for a few test drives.

A test drive. Seems simple enough. After all, who would throw down thousands of dollars for an unknown quantity?

Georgetown students would. We do it every semester when we register for classes.

Some faculty help us out by posting their syllabi online. Course descriptions, past evaluations, reading lists – all of these are helpful, too.

But nothing is quite the same as being able to see a professor in action. And Georgetown’s week-and-a-half add-drop period hardly even gives students a chance to shop around.

A reading list won’t offer much. Reading great books (while important) doesn’t always translate into insightful lectures or a dynamic class.

An assignment sheet helps peripherally. If we’re going to churn out papers for a course, we want to at least make sure we’re going to get something out of them.

Georgetown needs something akin to a shopping period, which many of its peer institutions already provide. These schools offer open enrollment at the start of the semester to let students test drive their courses.

If students find the classes that fit them best, they’ll make their time, and their professors’ time, more worthwhile.

Of the 27 courses I’ve taken at Georgetown, I’ve been satisfied with almost all of them.

But each semester, there’s maybe one that shouldn’t have made the cut. At over $3,000 a class, that can be hard to swallow.

Already, I can hear the status quo defenders chiming in. A shopping period would delay the start of the school year, some bemoan. More work for the registrar. It might be unfair, encouraging more students to seek easy classes, or popular professors, or what have you.

But if it’s worth doing – and looking at how much we’re paying for classes, I think it’s safe to say it is – then these problems can certainly be solved.

To start, students could have a longer add-drop period. Many seniors, myself included, shopped for classes this semester simply by going to six or seven classes, knowing they’d have to drop a couple. But when Monday-only classes don’t meet for two weeks, it’s not enough.

And a shopping period need not delay the start of the school year. Few professors spend that first lecture on anything other than a review of the syllabus with some introductory remarks thrown in.

That introductory lecture sounds like a perfect chance for students to take a class for a spin, and see how it handles. Students who don’t like a class could “return” it, picking up another in its place.

Attendance at the first class could be a requirement for enrollment, to prevent students from taking an extra holiday at the beginning of the year.

Georgetown should give its students more responsibility when it comes to previewing classes.

The results would be better classes, happier students.

And fewer lemons.

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