PLAYING THE BOARDS? Electronic mail makes it easier for students to send pleading requests for professors, as if we can somehow magically create seats in rooms where the available square footage is already full of seats. The situation is not made any easier when headquarters has both neglected to adjust the capacity of rooms to reflect the installation of the so-called smart classroom technology, which requires a fixed desk and more space for the electronics and failed to implement a simple waiting list algorithm, something that the airlines have been doing on computers for years, and the railroads used to do with file folders, space diagrams, and telegraphers. (I have discovered there is a way to improvise a waiting list, which I will be implementing in future semesters. First come, first added is a crude algorithm, but it spares me having to weigh tales of woe. When seniors have first crack at registration, in November, how valid is a claim to "urgently need" a class to complete graduation requirements that somebody discovers in January?)

I sometimes wonder if those desperate pleas aren't a consequence of course shopping on Pick A Prof, which headquarters decided is worthy of our recognition, albeit with some reluctance from the faculty. On the one hand, doing the work to identify the allegedly easy sections, from the Pick A Prof histograms and from the allied social networking services strikes me as more work than simply doing the homework. On the other hand, I wouldn't put it past a corner-cutter to do that sort of internet surfing, and work through the catalog options from easiest to hardest. It's a good thing the surfing and registration histories of students are confidential.

In case any economics students look in, tales of woe don't impress economists.
We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens.
What's missing is an incentive structure in which late registering students can make mutually beneficial agreements from professors that don't look like bribe-taking.

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