New Course Catalog Bewildering, Say Students

Carl Brooks

Picked up a new schedule of courses yet? That’s right, that attractive lime green-accented bible of what you need to know for the spring 2004 semester. Well, they’ve changed. The tiny typed schedule lists the course number, the name, the date, time and location of the class and the instructor you will be soaking up the book learning from. Or, it used to.

The new course schedules have undergone some drastic changes. Room numbers are no longer listed-instead it says, “Rm on Web 1/15.” The book says, “This publication no longer lists buildings, rooms or numbers for on-campus classes. Information about these locations will be available on the university Web site no later than January 15, 2004.”

Registrar David Cesario explains that the change is due to the new way schedules are handled at UMB. “We don’t mail out schedules anymore. You have to get on the web to get your schedule, anyway,” and that a new software system automatically assigns rooms based on enrollment.

“Room changes happen all the time anyway,” notes Cesario. This is a weary fact of life for UMB students, and Cesario hopes the new system will put a stop to that, “This way, we hope to assign rooms more efficiently.”

Another change is that most of the classes listed don’t have the professor’s name anymore. Instead, it says “staff,” even when a course is a long-time instructor’s personal bailiwick. For instance, Renaissance & Reform, taught by professor William Percy since time immemorial, is now listed as staff. This could be a major problem for students looking for a favorite professor or trying to avoid one described as “walking narcolepsy” by fellow undergrads.

Cesario refused to take the blame for the missing professors, saying, “If they gave [a professor’s name] to us, it’s on the list. We’re not responsible for that.”

A thumbnail comparison of the Fall 2003 schedule and the Spring 2004 schedule shows that professor’s names have almost completely disappeared from some departments. In the Fall 2003 book, the History Department lists 35 classes and 28 professors, and Spring 2004 has 36 classes and only 4 professors. The English Department did not suffer such drastic cuts, however, with 50 professors listed in the fall versus 40 listed in the spring.

Students are alternately bewildered and amused by the sharp downgrade in useful information in the floppy books. The new schedules were the talk of an evening class last week, as the professor carefully read down the list of her department, matching 90% of the anonymous classes with their usual professors. One student remarked, “Well that’s a f**k up, isn’t it? We have to get them on the web?” referring to the lack of professors and room numbers.

Jeff Mitchell, senior editor for university publications explains, “Absence of room numbers is indeed a change, which originated in the Registrar’s office, which is where I get all the information in the book. They simply changed their policy. They have a new system that will allow them to schedule classes in rooms later but more accurately, based on enrollment.”

And what do students think of the new books?

“I don’t understand why it’s like that. It’s not all that helpful. What happened? It’s a little unnerving too, because, what’s going to happen with all the staff? What’s the staff situation?” said one student, peering at the new book.