A letter from your editors: Confidential to the Biology Department

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By Editorial Board

Last term, the Biology Department elected to go without petitions during prescheduling. It is our understanding that the department plans to continue this approach for spring term classes.

We strongly urge them to reconsider. Biology is extremely popular, so competition for certain courses is fierce. It is our hope that students would be placed in the most organized, fair way possible. Instead, the department has chosen to go without the petition system or any clear substitute for it, resulting in widespread frustration, confusion, and ridiculous displays of registration trickery.

Without petitions, a significant number of majors were denied admission to any biology classes for the winter term, while some non-majors were admitted into one or even two courses. Furthermore, we know several students who are already jockeying for a spot in attractive spring classes by contacting professors directly. This kind of ‘who you know’ academic networking is inexcusable, and the fault lies with the stressful uncertainty of the situation. Such difficulty with scheduling is a problem usually reserved for large, impersonal universities.

The overly competitive nature of the Biology Department was also reflected in the research seminar held earlier this term. After speaking at length on their particular projects, most professors concluded that they were looking for only one or two students, preferably from the sophomore class. It was also revealed (for the first time, for many students) that those who were not among the minority chosen for research would not be able to write a thesis. The selection process for research is also uncoordinated, monitored mostly through private email and informal meetings. Again, the Biology Department reverts to a game of cronyism and adulation—great for students who know how to play, disheartening for everyone else. (To contrast, the Chemistry Department runs a carefully-supervised thesis match system, where all interested students meet with multiple professors and are then placed during a faculty meeting.)

We strongly urge the Biology Department to reevaluate its current stance on petitions. Please, go back to the old system, create a new system, whatever. But do not allow the current state of things to continue.

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