The Office of the Registrar’s add/drop deadline marks the time when students begin to reflect on their course load, thinking about what courses they should take in the future, and what they would have done differently if they could return to the first few weeks of September and re-enroll in classes. The University works to satisfy students by offering a rich selection of courses, academic advising and a two-week shopping period. The Editorial Board acknowledges the University's efforts to make course selection easy, but believes there is a major area in which the University can improve: the availability of courses with a regional focus addressing current events. The Board believes that the University should do more to encourage faculty with regional expertise to design courses that, while still exploring historical factors, analyze current events.
Princeton offers many world-class foreign language programs, which all A.B. students are required to participate in and many B.S.E. students choose to. Language learning has many benefits in a globalized world, chief among them an ability to gain insight into the politics and affairs of people and countries around the world. The Wilson School, for example, includes an extra language requirement for the major for this very reason. The Board, however, finds it extremely disappointing that students who develop proficiency or fluency in a language, in or out of the Wilson School, find limited opportunities to build on this skill in complementary social science courses. Students enrolled in Mandarin Chinese, for example, often cite Wilson School Professor Thomas Christensen’s “China’s Foreign Policies” course offered in the Spring as one of the few courses offered at the University that explores the politics of modern China. This is in spite of the fact that the Mandarin Chinese department is a prominent language program on campus.
The Board also believes that offering the recommended courses would encourage diversity in the classroom. Students naturally gravitate toward courses with which they have a degree of familiarity or which view as highly applicable to daily life. The Board believes that contemporary courses are more likely to meet these criteria for a broad cross-section of the student body than courses that analyze a decade of a country’s history. Precepts that contain an assorted mix of majors often produce the most thoughtful discussion, and the University should consider fostering these classrooms as an important goal. One might object to this, arguing that course enrollment is a zero-sum game and that students will be less likely to take cultural and historical courses. The Board, however, views students taking these courses and developing new interests in the history and culture of foreign nations as a distinct possibility. Furthermore, the Board does not see a compelling reason to corral students into certain courses, when more popular courses can equally further students’ liberal arts education. In some instances, a historical or cultural class could appropriately be a mandatory prerequisite for a particular current events-focused course. Overall, the Board sees no compelling reason not to, and many compelling reasons in favor of a current course catalog with more contemporary based courses.