November 09, 2005

They say it's easier to go back.

I find myself skeptical.

I got my Tele-Bears appointment times (for those of you not affiliated with UC Berkeley, Tele-Bears is the ridiculously cutesy name of the automated class registration system) yesterday; my Phase I appointment was on October 24. The fact that I wasn't officially, or even unofficially, readmitted until a week later should apparently not have deterred me from signing up for classes. Phase II, also known as "well, the people with early appointment times roasted you on a stick in Phase I, so see who you can still screw out of what's left" begins on November 14, so I'm scrambling to sign up for whatever I can get before then.

Whatever I can get needs to include a Methods course, an American Cultures course, an International Studies course, a Social/Cultural core course, and two additional upper-division anthropology electives. That's the list for the next two semesters, anyway. A reasonably responsible approach requires taking two or three of those things this semester.

What I actually find myself with is another matter entirely. At the present time, the only class for which I am successfully registered is a lower-division LGBT Studies class on alternative sexual identities and communities in contemporary American society. That's my American Cultures class, because Anthro isn't offering anything for American Cultures this semester. I'm waitlisted for a class on European society, which could be my Social/Cultural core and my International Studies class combined, if only I could get off of the waitlist and into one of the 45 officially open seats. You see, my category for this course is full. What category is that? Why, undergraduate students and declared anthropology majors, of course. It's a classic Berkeley bureaucracy problem: I need the class because I am an undergraduate anthropology major, but I cannot sign up to take one of the seats which have been set aside to make sure that undergraduate anthropology majors can take the class, because Office X didn't mention to Office Y that I am an undergraduate anthropology major. Yet. By the time Phase I is over I'm sure the message will have been delivered.

It goes on. I tried next to sign up for Anthro 128M, Oral History, Oral Traditions, and Archaeology, thinking that it would make a nice Methods class. Upon clicking "submit", I learned that I cannot sign up for that class because I do not meet the department's criteria for it. Which criteria? According to the catalog and the enrollment information page, there are no enrollment restrictions on that class. Perhaps I am too tall, or I didn't click "please", or my left big toe is too large relative to the toe next to it. Students wishing to take 128M for credit should not have the letters Y, J, or C in their middle names.

For all that I gripe, I feel certain that this red tape is merely an indicator that I am inexorably approaching studentdom. It's a strategy I got from a demon-infested maze in a Piers Anthony book: if someone is trying to eat your head, you're going in the right direction. Perhaps this is why Berkeley has such a reputation for permissive attitudes; if every direction you try leads to someone trying to eat your head, does that not mean that all of them are right?

Posted by dianna at November 9, 2005 11:08 PM

I can't really speak to your specific experience; I had freakishly good luck in getting courses at Berkeley.

I did have some trouble with the Legal Studies department, though. They make it annoying for non-majors to sign up for classes by reserving all the seats for Legal Studies majors. If you're a non-major, you have to get on the waitlist and wait until the first day of class. That's when they open up all the seats and fill in the gaps from the wait list. I was too lazy to declare a second major in Legal Studies until my last semester, so I spent a lot of time on those wait lists.

My only other annoying Telebears experience was signing up in Phase I for a Modern Japanese History course that was (eventually) cancelled. Apparently the professor took a sabbatical to conduct research in Japan, but either didn't tell anyone or decided to go at the absolute last minute. We didn't find out the class was cancelled until the students showed up for his class and the professor didn't. I found out he was gone by looking up his bio on the History Department page.

Posted by: Zach S. at November 10, 2005 11:12 AM

The frustrating thing here is that when I planned out my schedule for the next two semesters (which I had to do for my readmission stuff), I based it on the schedule of classes from last spring because next spring's wasn't available yet. My god, the selection was amazing. Everything I wanted was offered. There were no conflicts between classes. I found so many excellent-looking classes that I had to pare down my list to a reasonable workload and the major adviser still wondered why I had so many extra classes listed.

Now I see it was a bait-and-switch. All of these classes I'm trying to sign up for are second or third choices, because the selection in archaeology this semester is crap. The most interesting-looking class offered is one I've already taken. The selection in social/cultural is crap also, which irks me because social/cultural is my nemesis subject and it's only when there's a dazzling selection that I can find any classes in it that don't drive me up the wall.

Honestly here. How did I get from American Material Culture, Museum Methods, and Anthropology of Religion to fucking Oral History, European Society, and Artifact Identification, and those were the best I could come up with that didn't have titles like Landscapes of Archaeological Thought? You bastards. You're probably hiding the Schedule of Good Classes behind your backs and snickering while I grumble over the Schedule of Total Crap.

Posted by: Dianna at November 10, 2005 12:00 PM

Yeah, I had been planning on a whole series of Japanese History courses until Professor Barshay disappeared. That ended up killing off that whole line of intellectual inquiry for me. I wound up in American Intellectual History and Soviet History. Not that there's anything wrong with either, bear in mind.

Any idea why the change from last year? Has Berkeley's Anthropology department been ransacked? Have all the interesting professors gone on sabatical? Oh, Alan Dundes died. Was he behind a bunch of the courses you were interested in? Because if so, that may explain part of it.

Posted by: Zach S. at November 10, 2005 01:20 PM

Di: if there are courses being offered that you can take but can't enroll in, then you should call whatever university body it was that accepted you based on that projected course schedule you submitted, and figure out how they can help you get permission codes for those courses (to allow you to jump the wait lists). I'd start with the department; they may bounce you over to the registrar or to the individual professors, but it's their job to at least be the first line of defense for students trying to navigate these kinds of stupid double-bind situations. Also, it might help you or protect you a bit to at least mention this to an adivsor or coordinator over there: when you file to graduate and they're approving your coursework or whatever, they can't complain as much about you wasting your first quarter back *if* you've talked to someone in the department and they've told you to just take what you can, or whatever.

Posted by: katie at November 10, 2005 01:57 PM

Yeah. I'm not panicking about that part. The anthro department office is four things:
1. accessible.
2. friendly.
3. the entity which approved my planned class schedule.
4. the entity in charge of manually processing the waitlists.

If my student status hasn't gotten fixed by the time Phase II starts, I'll just take an afternoon off work and wander down to the department office. I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to work out any remaining enrollment issues then; the anthro adviser should be able to either flip me out of the waitlist and into the class, or give me whatever kind of class entry code I need to get in by Tele-Bears.

In any event, I think I'm ditching the class that I'm waitlisted for and taking a Europe class that's archaeological instead of social/cultural, since I'm supposed to be retaking medical anthropology for my social/cultural core and the hell I'm taking two social/cultural classes if one of them can be archaeology instead. In the event of getting waitlisted for the archaeology class as well, please see the above.

Posted by: Dianna at November 10, 2005 02:32 PM

Zach, Alan Dundes wasn't behind the classes I was interested in for this particular exercise; he was firmly in the dreaded social/cultural side of the department. I was strongly urged by a friend's mother to take classes with him if I possibly could, and indeed I signed up for one a few years back, but discovered I didn't have the necessary prerequisites and had to drop it.

I'm not sure the sudden sucking is caused by anything quite so concrete, anyway. Part of it's just scheduling; for instance, I'd be happy to take European archaeology and European societies simultaneously, but can't because they are indeed simultaneous. Part of it is that a few good classes I've already taken are being offered again; that's fine for the department overall but doesn't help with the selection available to me. Add in random fluctuations and my incredible ability to exaggerate, and there's your catastrophic lack of classes. Voila.

Posted by: Dianna at November 10, 2005 02:43 PM

Yo' mama!

Er. My mama, actually.

Posted by: Arianna at November 14, 2005 10:04 AM

Arianna, I think you've been hanging around high schoolers for too long. But yes, yo' mama. How's she doing, anyway? Is she still teaching at the HGM?

Posted by: Dianna at November 14, 2005 11:14 AM