This is not really an interesting story, but it kinda speaks to a recent IHE or Chronicle piece on whether we still need printed course catalogs—which, I think we do, if for no other reason than that the printed catalog is an existing mechanism by which departments are forced to write important stuff down on a timely basis and commit to it, and recreating that mechanism would cost in time and money what was saved on print and paper.

In doing all my advising, there were still specific tasks I directed students to the printed course catalog for, over the online system—mainly, browsing to see what majors existed (since high schoolers are coming from seven or eight subjects to eighty-plus), and skimming to see which courses in a department could be taken without prerequisites. I actually think the most useful part of my advising was showing them how to use these different systems—as long as they took away the message “always click for more info” and “recognize it’s a lot of back-and-forth”, I feel good.

While advising some 30 incoming students, I found an error in the course catalog.* (see footnote for the truly boring detail)

This is by no means something I’m responsible for—I ran into it because I was advising officially-undeclared-but-planning-on-science majors and I realized the small print conflicted with what we’d been telling our students for the last six years.

However, I’m pretty sure it made no difference because the thing that REALLY enforces the prereqs is the registration computer, so it doesn’t matter what the printed course catalogs says. (I do wonder whether any brand-new undeclared advisors gave some wrong steers—“Oh well. They’ll figure it out” was our advising mantra, despite the degree of hand-holding happening.)

Of course, the only way outside the registrar’s office to tell what the registration computer is actually doing, since the text in the online course schedule is the same wrong text from the course catalog, is is try to enroll for the course. I’m just assuming the registration system has it right because I didn’t hear about anyone crying over their inability to follow my advice on that one (and yes, I did hear about tears over inability to follow other advices).

And yes, I’m arrogant—told the student I was right and the big kahuna of the printed course catalog, the authority of authorities that they are supposed to hold onto until they graduate, must be wrong. Hopefully the message in my explanation there was not “you can’t trust the course catalog” but “the university is not set up to punish you for using logic and taking harder courses”, although, that may in fact not be true at all.

*Specifically, to take general chemistry you need to have taken calculus or be taking it at the same time. There are FOUR calculus sequences, but only three of them meet this co-enrollment requirement (calculus for business majors does not). But a typo made it say that business calculus did meet the requirement but calculus for biology majors does not. Which is clearly illogical. (Honestly, explaining all this to students made me feel some sympathy for the hand-holding demands and helicopter parents—there is a lot of crap to keep track of.)