It was only after pre-registration had ended—when I tried to add a class a week later—that I was told the undergraduate French class I had been looking to take since second week of fall quarter could comprise only 70 percent undergraduate students. Even with several seats remaining in the class, I was informed that the effectiveness of the pink-slip system in this case would be bleak. My roommate, meanwhile, had the same experience with a philosophy class he wanted to take. So there we were, one snowy morning a week before Christmas vacation, staring at time schedules that counted six to eight remaining spots, and all the while being told by cMore that those seats did not, and could not, belong to us. They’re for Elijah, we joked.
During O-week, for the simple reason of my name being alphabetically first, I was able to take a seat in a Hum class that someone else on my floor with the same adviser was denied—his name was too far down the list and, just like that, he was given a later meeting. Not once did I think, even from that moment, that I would ever be stopped from taking a class, or that this strange and helpless predicament would ever be mine. So it came as a great surprise when I found out that I would not be allowed to take my French class.
The first thought to enter my head was something along the lines of I’m paying to be here; I should be allowed to take any class I want. The fact is, I am paying for an education, not to be told that, effectively, I’m too young to take a given class. A bad pretext for this sort of rejection might be that in the real world, we need to get used to disappointment.
When I found out that Harvard does not shut students out of classes, but simply gets bigger rooms or opens more sections to accommodate the odd ones out, I began to wonder why we cannot do the same here at the U of C. Perhaps doing something of the sort might betray the austere, severe, and unforgiving reputation we have acquired over the years.
Being denied admission to a closed class (or an open one, in my case) is not only unfair, but it’s illogical, especially when I have Core and major requirements to fulfill, and when my parents are dedicating a large portion of their salaries to send me here. I understand that other people signed up for this course as well, but why should I care? They are certainly not more entitled than I am, nor would I be were I the one admitted in their stead.
The professor formed a waiting list and put several names on it. Luckily, I was at the top so that if a single person dropped or a stroke of mercy hit my instructor’s heart, I would be the first to be admitted. However, this was not true for the other souls on that waiting list. Someone was bound to be excluded, no matter what.
In the interest of caution, I decided to register for another class so that if all else failed I would not be stuck taking only three courses. As I tried to fit myself into the backup class, I was simultaneously completing all the writing assignments for my other course, as well as the reading for my desired class. I am sure that I am not the only student to feel resentment for a class, having been exhausted and isolated by the tenuous nature of our inclusion.
It would be excessively critical and wrong to say that I have not gotten, for the most part, what I want with regard to my education here. However, it borders on unjust to be faced with the knowledge that I will, in all likelihood, encounter this conundrum again, and that the battle to get what I want once more will be, to say the very least, a severe headache. Why should we be excluded from what we want and what we are sure will enrich and better us? We should not have to choose another, somewhat divergent path, especially when attending this school for the purpose of exposure to what is universally considered to be the very best. Although it may seem greedy and stubborn to stand so firmly beside such an opinion, I still and always will hold that we, as students and paying customers, should be given what we think is best for us, what will make us better, happier, wiser, and more capable. To provide us with such is, after all, the ultimate purpose of a university.
Alexander Aciman is a first-year in the College.