Land before time schedules

By Zack Hill

This winter, U of C students’ discontent has been particularly oppressive. Battling through fierce weather, we’ve slipped and slid our way to class every morning. Even worse, space-time recently collapsed in on itself: Midterms, papers, lab reports, and other graded assignments blurred together into one giant, indecipherable mass, and then time dramatically sped up, making it nearly impossible to complete any assignments before they were due. (Time, of course, still manages to slow back down every Tuesday and Thursday for your stultifying 1:30–­­2:50 lecture class.)

With these reasons to despair, the University of Chicago student might be forgiven for being even more self-pitying than usual. And yet, despite the weather and the curious suspension of the laws of physics, all is well. Time schedules are here, and we are now bidding on the various ways to torment ourselves anew next quarter.

The time schedules offer enjoyment on several levels. First off, they always make a good read. This spring quarter, the course offerings are the usual mix of the undeniably awesome (“The Modern American Horror Film”), the potentially intriguing (“Romantic Love: Cultural, Philosophical, and Psychological Aspects”) and the perplexing (“Other Minds”?).

The fun is not limited to just reading about the courses: Signing up for new ones is even more exciting. Maybe one of the classes will be life-changing (or at least major-changing). Maybe you’ll meet someone and fall in love. New classes offer something that can become rare once you fall into your scholarly routine—the prospect of something completely fresh and different.

Admittedly, the excitement over new classes is fairly irrational. One tends to follow a fairly predictable pattern when taking a class. First week, you are dedicated and attentive, eager to do reading and engage in class discussion. By third week, you are still mildly engaged but need coffee to stay awake and use the last half hour of class to wonder whether any other superhero could actually defeat Superman in a legit battle. By sixth week, you openly despise several people in your class and skim most of the readings. By the end of the quarter, you struggle to convince yourself that it’s worth getting out of bed to walk to Cobb and contemplate whether a “W” really looks all that bad on your transcript.

Thus, much of the hope offered by the time schedules is false. While spring quarter may be offering new classes, it is not offering a new routine. Intriguing classes will turn into sources of unwanted assignments, just as our exhilarating winter quarter classes are now common topics for griping.

Even so, we’re right to be excited. Being depressed and eager to complain is part of life at the U of C, but so is feeling the surge of excitement over new classes. If we dwell so much on the part of the quarter where we wish we could reconsider our answer to the famous parental “you can get a car OR we’ll pay for college” dilemma, we should also remember that, for a few weeks, all was right with the universe, and being a student here was awesome. The new time schedules remind us that taking new classes and learning new things are fun, even if we intensely despise both when they start to involve writing three papers a week and listening to some kid who doesn’t shower expound on Adam Smith.

Maybe spring quarter, you’ll end up taking the one class which will change everything. You’ll pay rapt attention, never get bored, and decide to dedicate your life to whatever the heck “Other Minds” is about. Maybe not, but it’s definitely possible. Even if we go through the usual routine, at least we’ll have a few weeks of excitement, and will probably learn a few useful things to boot. I’ve been through the cycle of euphoria and gloom many times before, but I’m hopeful for the new quarter. If “Modern American Horror Cinema” focuses at all on the Silent Night, Deadly Night series, I may have found my calling.

Zack Hill, a member of the Maroon Editorial Board, is a fourth-year in the College majoring in NELC. His column appears on alternate Fridays.