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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Three directed writing classes

Published: January 27, 2006
Section: Opinions

The two weeks in the beginning of the semester are the time that each of us finalizes our schedules. We add, drop, and swap classes, rearranging them in any way we can to maximize the amount of sleep and free time and minimize the amount of work while filling the necessary requirements. This time is stressful enough all on its own, as our choices will determine the rest of our semester and even affect the rest of our college careers (whether we fill our major requirements, whether we graduate early, on time, or late, etc). Now imagine being unable to set your schedule. That is the experience I have been having since coming back to Brandeis last week.

Part of the requirements for the Creative Writing major is three Directed Writing classes. In order to declare this major you must have already taken three of these classes, all of which are capped at twelve people per class. There are only a handful of these courses taught each semester.

For each class, one must apply by submitting a four to seven page story two days before the first class. Then you must attend the first class during which everyone who applied for the twelve spots introduces themselves and listens to the professor teaching the course discuss the syllabus. This may take anywhere from a few minutes (not likely) to the full three hours of the class. Just when you think it is time to find out whether or not you were accepted into the class, the professor asks if anyone else has to submit work. He or she asks that they do so as soon as possible so that they can make the final decision. You will find that decision in an e-mail, a day later or a week later, its anyones guess.

Having applied to three such classes, I have had to attend three classes in addition to my other classes (which is a full course load). I am still waiting to hear from all but one of them. I cannot drop my classes, because I cant rely on classes that I may not be in. I do not want to add classes that are at the same time because then if I do get into one of the classes I have to drop them. My entire schedule, and ultimately my ability to declare my major, rests on these classes.

There are so many issues with this system. Dont teachers realize that we only have two weeks to sign up for classes? There isnt time to be sitting around and waiting to be notified about one class and it is too exhausting to go to seven or more classes in your first few weeks simply because you dont know whether or not you can drop things. Why cant the samples be due say a week before the first class and then the day before the class you will receive an e-mail telling you if you were accepted into the class? That way you dont have to waste so much time and stress. Plus, if the teacher does decide to let you know who made it while in that first class, you avoid the potential awkwardness and embarrassment of being the person who wasnt accepted.

My next problem with this system would be that if it says that the sample must be submitted no later than two days before the first class meeting why are people still sending in samples after the first class has met? If you couldnt get your writing in on time and dont have a good reason (that was already discussed with the teacher) why should you be able to knock someone else, who did the work on time, out of the course? If youre too irresponsible to do the work in the first place you dont deserve to be in the class in the first place when other people so obviously want it more than you.

Another thing I dont understand is why, if there are more than twice the amount of people who would like to take these classes, why cant additional classes be offered or at least have fifteen spaces instead of twelve. And why dont people who intend to be creative writing majors and actually need the course get preference over people who are applying on a whim or just for the sake of it?

Basically, some details of this major need a lot of reworking so that the whole process is easier for the students and less hectic. While some of these problems may take time to correct, other ones are easily rectifiable. It isnt fair that we should spend so much time without being able to figure out our schedule.