Whining has become a national pastime. If you have a minor whine, you send a letter to the editor of some newspaper or vent your indignation at some poor schlep answering the phones for whoever has angered you (i.e. the UA administration, multinational corporations, the producers of "The Jerky Boys Movie.") If you have a semi-major gripe, you can appear on a talk-show and have people hoot and holler as you make a fool out of yourself. And if you have a major whine, well, say hello to a TV movie deal and a tearful Barbara Walters interview.
I'm tired of people whining Ä especially when it comes to the University of Arizona. Yes, I'm actually defending the University of Arizona in this column. Yes, I'm the same person who has written most of the Wildcat staff editorials critical of the administration and I've taken a fair amount of swipes at various campus issues in my column. I won't back down from them, but by the same token, I think that some UA students complain about problems that they make minimal efforts to overcome.
In my four years at the University of Arizona, I have gotten into every class that I have wanted. Sometimes it has been a hassle waiting in limbo for two weeks to know if I'll be added to a class or not, but I've done it. If you listen to the buzz around campus, you would think that I should be exhibited out on the UA Mall by the administration.
An administrator in a top hat could yell, "Hear ye! Hear ye! Come see the boy who gets into classes! Please do not feed him."
Now I accept that I may be an exception to the rule, but when I watch people trying to get into classes, I'm surprised by how quickly most of them give up. If you want to get into a class, don't be completely discouraged when the professor says, "This class is full." The vast majority of people wanting to add a class attend the first day, hear it's full and never return. If you want a class, keep on attending it for a couple weeks. In most cases, persistence pays off.
Planning also helps. Find out in advance which classes are notoriously full (i.e. Political Science 309, judicial process) and make arrangements. Maybe push taking that class back a year so you can use your upperclassman standing to your advantage when registering through the RSVP system. Also make sure that you register on RSVP as quickly as possible. I'm always amazed by the number of people who are trying to add classes and say, "I'm a graduating senior." Why can't those graduating seniors get into their classes using the RSVP system? Hmmmm .
I recognize that class availability is a problem, but I see students passively accepting it. The worst thing you can do is give up on the first day. Essentially you are acquiescing to the system and not making any statement whatsoever. Now, I know what's going to be the most likely argument to this column: "If I'm paying X amount of dollars to attend this school, why should I be fighting for an education?"
There are 35,000 students at this university. That is a fact. You are here to seek an education, not to have an education seek you. What you get out of college is dependent on the time and effort you wish to put forth. This is the real world. People do not get jobs or move up in the world by trying for only one position, not getting it and saying, "Well, I'm just going to have to remain where I am for the rest of my life." In order to improve your lot in life, you must fight.
Prepare yourself for another shocking statement. I believe that I have gotten a quality education at the University of Arizona. I can name more than a handful of professors who have had significant impact on my life. My eyes have been opened up to worlds that I never knew existed. My problems with the university have always been a lot more complicated than "undergraduate education sucks." I have seen the real problems of this university day in and day out. I have seen quality educators being trampled on, neglected or axed by the university's bureaucratic machine. I have seen some complacent professors with tenure who have lost (or never had) the drive to teach. I have seen contributions made by university classified staff go under-appreciated. And I have seen an administration which places supreme confidence in its decision-making ability and often times, does not bother to solicit student, faculty or staff input.
You can control the quality of your own education. If you don't want teaching assistants, then look at the schedule in advance and try to find classes taught by professors. If you don't understand a point in your lecture class, visit the instructor during his/her office hours. By going to office hours, you can receive personalized instruction for free without paying $20 per hour for a tutor. Of course, your classes are going to seem cold and impersonal if you merely attend and don't ask questions. If you act like a number, then expect to be treated like one.
A quality education can be had at the University of Arizona. It's just waiting for you to seize it.
In my book, you can do one of two things Ä fight for the best education possible or shut up and accept what you are dished out.
Jon Burstein is a senior in political science and journalism.
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