College is all about making decisions. It’s the first time most students are able to independently choose lifestyles, communities and interests. And it’s the job of the university to facilitate and encourage good decision making. You may have seen some of the education posters on campus about responsible drinking and consent. Yet, with one of the most fundamental college decisions — which classes to take — the university leaves students in the dark.
With rare exceptions, students aren’t able to look through syllabuses before they sign up for courses. During the registration season, students — dealing with the stress of exams and looming project deadlines — must make their course decisions based off a little more than paragraph blurbs about each class. This is ridiculous and unfair to students.
For starters, not having a syllabus before the beginning of the semester means that students aren’t able to budget their time or money in advance. How can they if they don’t know the relevant books, access codes, clickers and lab equipment they’ll need to participate in their classes? This can all run up a hefty sum.
While the campus bookstore usually has supply lists for most courses, more often than not this information isn’t helpful. For instance, it doesn’t distinguish between resources that professors require and what is optional. With a syllabus posted before the start of the semester, the university could eliminate confusion and the stress of wall-to-wall book return lines.
A further issue with no early access to syllabuses is that students don’t have any idea what they’re signing up for at advisement. They have no way of knowing if that description blurb encapsulates what the class is actually about. For example, one could sign up for a Physics of Musical Acoustics class and then find out that the class doesn’t involve any music — true story. There are few things more frustrating than learning that a class you’ve signed up for is not at all what you expected. Students in these situations are forced to decide between powering through or switching courses. This is a waste of time, not only for students, but also for the professors and advisers who have to deal with this mess.
The obvious solution to these problems is to post syllabuses online for students to browse through before picking classes. Student Government has already made a website for that explicit purpose, but it's empty. The university, or professors themselves, should take steps to use this resource. While some syllabuses might not be finished before registration — which is a problem unto itself — there is no reason that recurring courses shouldn’t make their syllabuses available online.
It’s no mystery why students often end up dissatisfied with their classes. In light of the thousands of hours (and dollars) that students invest in their college education, it’s mind-boggling that they have to deal with a course registration system as backwards as this one.
Students deserve to know where their money and time are going. It shouldn’t be a big ask to have access to basic information, such as a syllabus, before potentially throwing hours and dollars down the metaphorical drain.