Opinions, Column

The Paradox of Class Selection

The mission of a university is to shape young minds, and the most basic step to fulfill this mission is providing quality classes. Boston College often fails to meet this requirement. 

One reason many students chose to attend BC is because enthusiastic Student Admission Program (SAP) representatives convinced us that BC’s teaching method was about “more than the grade.” 

SAP tour guides told us classes would go beyond textbook readings to incite formative changes and stimulate intellectual growth. But as another class registration period leaves many of my peers and me dumbfounded at what roughly $90k of tuition gets us, we need to discuss BC’s shortcomings with class selection. 

Economics majors like me face the brunt of registration stress. Our department has demonstrated an inability to support all of the students within it. Students who major in economics are expected to take six electives in the department—but they often find these courses completely full, reducing their chances to graduate with the economics major on time. When confronted with this problem, the department commenced a search for professors to meet the demand of students. 

Understandably, it had a limited time to find professors. Because of this, though, it focused on quantity over quality—putting students in classrooms with new or visiting professors and making them the guinea pigs for classes to come. 

When we matriculated to BC, we weren’t promised visiting professors with low Rate My Professors scores—we were promised award-winning BC faculty members with more insight to offer than the contents of a textbook. I want to feel excited signing up for classes. Instead, each time course selection begins, I feel a rush of anxiety about the quality of my teachers.

This is a failure of the University to meet its most basic duty. The school advertises a wide selection of classes, but in reality, that “wide selection” is only available if your class pick time is 9 a.m. and you are a senior. BC spent millions of dollars remodeling Conte Forum with state-of-the-art practice facilities and an outdoor-facing hot tub, but I can’t get a seat in a class to fulfill my major requirements.

Is BC doing enough to fulfill its duties as a university by simply providing classes? I don’t think so. As a self-proclaimed “leader in the liberal arts, scientific inquiry, and student formation,” BC has a duty to provide students with an opportunity to learn from experienced and professional professors while putting in the time to train new ones. I want professors who make me work hard and push my thinking to new limits. College isn’t supposed to be easy. I want SAP tour guides to be right when they say BC’s teaching method is about “more than the grade.” I want BC to be a place that shapes new leaders with the judgment and skills to make the right choices.

I don’t think I’m asking for a lot—I’m simply asking the people in power to keep their promises. So what do I propose? On top of existing course evaluation systems contributing to promotions and tenure for professors, BC should create an independent department that works directly with professors to ensure that student feedback is understood and incorporated into classes. If students within a class are all complaining about the same issues within course evaluations, these complaints should be properly considered and addressed by an unbiased, non-academic department so future classes can improve. 

As students, we often feel unheard. We can complain and complain on course evaluations, but somehow, it feels like nothing of substance gets changed. Instead of promoting student engagement or trust in the way our school is operated, BC often shows us that some people just don’t want to hear what we have to say.

These objections aren’t unfair. We deserve access to quality classes and experienced professors who are willing to listen to us. It’s time for BC to open itself up to student feedback and concerns.

November 26, 2023