To the Editor:
I definitely empathize with Ms. Mueller (April 12, “Registrar Just Don’t Understand”). I spent a vast amount of time pondering (and stressing) over my schedule during my first and second years at Colgate. With so many requirements to complete, there were quite a few decisions to be made, which the registration system itself often turned around anyway when three out of four courses I had planned on taking were closed or waitlisted to infinity.Sometimes there was no decision to be made, when two classes I really hoped to take were all offered at the same time as one I needed. The process inevitably contributes stress to our lives, which are already full of much to think about and do.
Even so, I think there are a few points that can be made on behalf of the current system and its requirements. First, it may seem like a daunting task to complete ten courses outside of one’s major, but with a 10-credit major that still leaves 12 credits (three full semesters) of playing room, whether to double major, minor, go abroad, or simply take a few electives. There is a great deal of flexibility built into the system, which still tailors our experience toward the liberal arts. These requirements may seem like a hindrance to those who already know what they would like to pursue, but with an open mind it can open them up to a new academic passion. (For instance, as a geology major, I tripped into taking Latin for a distribution credit and have ended up taking two semesters more of it, and may even travel with the Rome extended study course.) Of course, having the CORE and distribution requirements is useful for those who lack direction, because it can help them discover what they love.
It is true that the CORE is not an equal experience for everyone; some may have read much of the material before and others have more demanding or boring professors. In the hands of the right professor, however, Western Traditions and the Challenge of Modernity are quite valuable in themselves. Everyone cannot be fortunate enough to have a positive experience in all the CORE classes but with some luck at registration and a little peer-to-peer research into professors, everyone can have at least one stellar course. We may not choose to take these courses, but we do have some control over when and with whom we take them. Whether we aim to take the course for a good grade or to learn is up to us.
These courses are not redundant with the Philosophy and Religion departments; although they are often taught by Philosophy or Religion professors, the perspective one gets from a history or French or Latin professor teaching Genesis or Luke, for instance, differs greatly from the one that one would get in a religion class on the Old or New Testament. By the same token, the perspective one gets from a Religion or Philosophy professor on Darwin or the Iliad will differ from that imparted by a biologist, geologist or classicist. That is part of what makes the CORE valuable; it can afford us the opportunity to challenge and examine certain perspectives from a different angle.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the process of decision-making and the flexibility that are required of us during registration are quite beneficial to us in the end. Decision-making will only become more stressful and take on higher stakes once we prepare to step beyond Colgate’s doors.I believe that if the registration process was a piece of cake and we were able to take whatever we chose, we would lose some very applicable lessons about the world. Things do not always work out as we would hope, nor should they. The Colgate bubble is large enough as it is; we need not be shielded completely within.
Steph Tubman Class of 2008