Registration Blues - Yet Again
At the risk of beating a dead horse, the following point must be made: class registration via PRESTO! is a debacle. Disaster, many would say, and many would reserve even harsher terms. For the most part, the only satisfied customers are students who happen to either have a trouble-free experience or happen to get the classes they want. Even these students would most likely concede that they are among a lucky few, and that the process itself is flawed. Professors seem to by and large find the system bothersome or annoying at the very least. Both professors and students have noticed the inconsistency of PRESTO!'s consent function, as it fails to grant consent despite professors' wishes and fails to notify students that consent is necessary for a course until they have already (unsuccessfully) tried to register. The difficulty of registration disrupts the first several weeks of classes, robbing students and professors of valuable time. And it swamps the registrar's office, relegating other matters (returning students and such) to second-class status.
This is a campus that prides itself on its technological advancement, and was in fact ranked fifth most wired among American college campuses last year by Yahoo! Internet Life. Why then can it not get a rather simple piece of software right? One answer is that perhaps it is not a simple piece of software, but this seems highly doubtful, and even if that were the case there are hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide with the same need - surely at least one of them has got it right.
The answer, then, lies in attitude. Simply put, the College does not seem to care enough to get it right. Which is a shame, given that the current system inconveniences not only the College's customers (students) but also creates more work and inconvenience for many of its employees (professors and those in the registrar's office in particular).
The College will, of course, raise a great hue and cry about how the current system does work and how it really does care about the time and convenience of its students and staff. But this is an unconvincing argument, and will remain so until the College takes concrete and noticeable steps to remedy the situation.
Black History Month Limiting
What does Black History Month mean to you? Think about this, it's not as easy as it seems. As an American, you are obligated to respect and celebrate the history and legacy of a group that, despite centuries of oppression and racism, has produced so many great Americans. Similarly, as someone connected with Oberlin College, you are obligated to celebrate the College's history of diversity and its role in establishing and shaping racial acceptance in higher education. Or are you? As someone connected with Oberlin, you are also obligated to question those things accepted by the rest of the country. And this is no exception.
There is of course the most basic argument: why just one Black History Month, and then that's all? Is the rest of the year implicitly a series of "White History Months"? This is an argument with much to reccomend it. By labeling one month "Black History Month" there is naturally an increased emphasis on black history during that month, which means that many otherwise well-minded folk feel just fine with treating the rest of the year as a de facto series of white history months. Rather than seeing black history as something exogenous of American or white or any other history, should the emphasis not be on viewing black history as an integral and inescapable part of American history? So the argument goes, and with good reason.
But there is more than that. Black History Month has become more than a celebration; it has become (and indeed always has been) an Issue. This can be problematic, as many can shield their racism behind the mask of disagreeing on the "issue" of Black History Month, and of the supposed special treatment it affords. Similarly, supporters of Black History Month can get caught in passionate defense of the event that can be more about fear of that shielded racist opposition than about the merits of the event itself.
Black History Month, though itself a significant achievement and important celebration, cannot stand alone. Black history must not be viewed as seperate or different from American history, or from white history, or from world history. It must be viewed and thought of and taught as simply history. Achieve this, and we will achieve the sort of progress that Black History Month has sought to inspire ever since its inception, and that its proponents have fought for for centuries.
Copyright © 2001, The Oberlin Review.
Contact us with your comments and suggestions.