Dropping a course like it’s hot


I photoshopped a picture of Snoop Dog dancing in front of the load screen of the ROSI website.

Don’t forget to log in like it’s hot.

If we count the two summer terms, I’ve been at UofT for sixteen terms. In that time, I’ve dropped a lot of courses. This week, I dropped two more. As a full time student, I’ve been paying flat fees since first year. And, while there are many downsides to flat fees, there’s a positive note in that it makes it easy for me to flexibly control my enrollments. Typically, I start off the year with a full roster of six courses, and whittle my way down to a more manageable courseload (though it doesn’t always happen).

I thought I’d spend this week trying to feel less guilty about dropping courses by sharing why I drop them, and reminding everyone that it’s okay to drop your courses too when you need to (but keep on fighting! I believe in you!). Usually, I try to drop any courses I’m going to before the last day to add courses, to make sure my empty seat doesn’t go to waste.

When a course don’t fit your schedule ma
Drop it like it’s hot
Drop it like it’s hot
Drop it like it’s hot

I photoshopped a photo of Snoop Dog's dance in front of a calendar. You can tell I'm being very creative in this post.Some times courses conflict. Actually, with my departments, it’s most of the time. It can be hard to decide which courses I actually want to take. The easy solution: take both and keep the better one! Perhaps more importantly, though, I have a lot of responsibilities on and off of campus that can be hard to keep tabs on. Sometimes other life priorities win out: be it work, other passions, or even just need for a mental health break. In these cases, I drop classes, and it’s okay to. It’s okay to schedule your life in a way that’s beneficial to you.

When the evals ain’t quite good for ya
Drop it like it’s hot
Drop it like it’s hot
Drop it like it’s hot

A photo of the outside of the exam centre with, you guessed it: Snoop Dog photoshopped in front.

I like to write papers; I don’t like writing tests. I have a somewhat poor memory and don’t do well in timed scenarios, whereas I really benefit from my learning when I can take the time to think and to engage with the material. Accordingly, when an offered class is test-based only, I usually consider dropping it in favour of a paper- or presentation-based class. I’m here to learn, and to learn in the way that best suits me. I learn best with certain modes of evaluation: simple as that. (And, it’s okay to prioritize your GPA too. Do what’s best for you!).

And when the content ain’t engaging you
Drop it like it’s hot
Drop it like it’s hot
Drop it like it’s hot

Now Snoop Dog is shopped in front of a woman sleeping in a library.

Why would you spend money and time enrolled in a course that isn’t engaging you? Okay: we all have to take our prerequisites, sure. But after a certain point, my majors are really flexible. And while I try my best to be engaged in every class I have, I can’t always connect with the course content. And that’s okay! It’s okay to leave a course that you aren’t getting anything from, and to prioritize other courses and activities. You’re responsible for your own progress toward a degree, but you’re also responsible to your best interests.

I’ve got five textbooks in my bag and I’m drinking coffee up
And I’m done butchering this terribly parodied Snoop Dogg song

Why do you drop courses? How do you convince yourself it’s okay to “let it go” (don’t worry; I’m not hip enough for Snoop Dogg [Lion?], I won’t even touch Frozen)? Let me know in the comments below! For now, I leave you with this wonderful/terrible educator’s version of the Snoop Dogg classic: “Studying for your testizzle is hardizzle but beneficial” (almost makes ME look hip!).

Choosing Your Courses for the First Time! 

It was only a year ago that I was an incoming freshmen, so when I say I “remember feeling anxious and nervous about choosing my courses” I actually mean it. It was literally only twelve months ago. I remember the uneasiness of not knowing which courses to take, the anxiety of waiting to find out your start time, and that feeling of disappointment when you don’t get into a class you really wanted to take.

But I’m here to tell you I survived, and you will too! I ensure you that it’s not as daunting as it seems, but you’re also not crazy for being anxious about it. I hear rumours that even the mystical fourth years (who often seen to us like they have this whole University thing down pat) get nervous and anxious too.

I survived course selection and even made it to my first day of class. (where I was clearly more concerned with getting the perfect instagram picture, I couldn't even remember how scary course selection had been!)

I survived course selection and even made it to my first day of class. (where I was clearly too concerned with getting the perfect instagram picture, I couldn’t even remember how scary course selection had been!)

So while this post won’t secure your a coveted early morning time slot, or help you choose between Intro to Mythology and Introduction to Physical Geography, here’s what I learned from going through course selection for the first time.

#1: Do Your Research! 

Course selection is different for every faculty, and even every program, so depending on what you’re studying plan to make one of the following websites your new best friend;

I learned the hard way that there’s nothing worse than spending the entire night before course selection trying to navigate through subjects and choose your courses! Get familiar with the calendar and write down the course codes of any and all the courses that interest you. You can go back and narrow down this list later, but it helps to feel comfortable navigating the abyss that is the U of T course calendar.

#2: Make a draft schedule! And then another… And then another… 

You can never have too many schedule options! Using tools like Griddy, or even just an excel document on your computer, make your perfect schedule. Now repeat this same process, but using almost entirely different courses. Now repeat this again. And again.

Griddy is an awesome tool that helps you plan our your schedule! Check it out by clicking this picture

Griddy is an awesome tool that helps you plan our your schedule! Check it out by clicking on this picture

I tried to have about four different variations of what my schedule and courses could look like. And while they got less and less appealing (the last schedule I made consisted of courses I would only take if I had to) I ended up with something in between my first and last choice.

#3: Check your times and set an alarm! 

Arts & Science students can use this webpage to find when their start time will appear on ROSI (ROSI will add another menu option on the left hand side of the page that says “view start time”).


Once you have your start time, make sure to set a couple of alarms in case you need to get up early – or stop what you’re doing in the middle of the day. I know a lot of people also book off their course selection day from work. This may be a good option if you don’t have a flexible work environment with access to a computer and internet


#4: Do the Prep Work! 

While it might seem a little crazy, last year I set up a work station. I laid out my essentials; a computer, a print-out of my potential schedules (a calendar version and a list of the course codes), and a list of some other courses that I could use as fillers and back-ups.

Then I made sure my computer is fully charged, my wifi connection was strong, and I began to brave course selection.


I think I just really like organized work stations…

This is how I survived first year course selection, and it’s how I plan to survive again this year. Hopefully I was able to de-bunk some of the course selection myths, and give you a couple tips and resources to make the whole process go easier. If you still have questions, don’t forget that there are hundreds of resources out there designed to help you through this! You can always call or email your registrartalk to your program sponsor, or even check out tools like FastAnswers (for A&S students) where you can type in questions or choose from the most frequently asked!

How do you prepare for course selection? Is there anything I’m missing that I should add to my regime this year? Maybe some extensive finger stretching and strengthening in preparation? Or an ergonomic keyboard that allows me to type my course code 0.01 seconds faster? Leave them in the comments below or share them with me on twitter at @Rachael_UofT

The Secret to the Perfect Schedule

Thursday, August 8, 2013 – 6:02 am:

Stephen: No, No! It says it’s ‘Temporarily Out of Service’! Is yours working?

Leah: It’s loading!

Stephen: Mine’s not even loading!

Leah: I’m on!

Stephen: You are?

Leah: NOO!

Stephen: What happened?

Leah: It kicked me off, said my ‘Session has Timed Out’! If I don’t get into these courses I am going to explode!

Stephen: Mine’s still out of service.

Leah: It’s frozen!

Stephen: Must be really flooded.

Leah: It’s official. I hate ROSI.


It was nice to hear that many of you first years had an easy time with course enrolment. I hope you enjoyed it. For all the rest of you second, third, fourth (and even fifth) year students­—I hear it!

What is the secret to getting that perfect schedule? (#startUofT Ever had a perfect schedule?) The schedule that just works, all the classes you want, not too early, not too late, evenly distributed, no back-to-backs, no rushing across campus, each class as interesting and engaging and worthwhile as you thought it would be. And maybe you even get Fridays off!


I have never had a preplanned schedule work out completely. Try as I might, there always seemed to be some kind of conflict, or missed prerequisite, or ‘the meeting section was full’. But that is not to say that I have never had a perfect schedule. There is a secret to it. Here, let me tell you.


In my first year I thought it wise to take Latin. The intro course, however, was offered Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:45 am. If that’s not a proactive discouragement, I don’t know what is!


I did not take Latin. Instead, I took a first year economics course and a seminar in the psychology of music. Note: Neither economics nor psychology was to become my major. But the scheduling difficulties allowed me the opportunity to re-examine the course offerings and discover two new, very interesting subjects. Now I say things like, “An improved economy depends on higher worker productivity” and “The word timbre refers to the quality in a sound that is particular and unique to the thing, such as the particular sound of someone’s voice.”

In second year I planned to take a creative writing class, but failed to notice the May 15 application date. FYI: Nearly every creative writing course at U of T requires that you apply early. I took How to Write English Essays instead. Boring, right? But it turned out to be one of the most useful, worthwhile courses I have taken so far.

By third year I was privy to how things worked. I planned early, I applied for things, and I got into the creative writing class. I did not, however, get into ENG308­—timetable conflict—and so I had to take ENG302!

But it turned out to be one of my favourite classes. The professor, David Galbraith, was enthusiastic and engaging. We read Thomas More’s Utopia and Shakespeare’s Sonnets. And I met a really awesome girl named Leah (the same Leah who battled ROSI with me this morning). All because of a “problem” with my so-called “perfect” schedule.

Here it is: The secret to the perfect schedule is that there is no such thing as a perfect schedule. Even if I’m up all night to get lucky with ROSI, I will probably encounter some issue.

And so I try not to worry about it. I’m discovering that every course at U of T has something worthwhile to offer. It’s not about getting the perfect schedule. It’s about making sure I take something away from each and every course I happen to fall into.

The Rolling Stones really said it best!

– Stephen


‘Til next time! Stay diamond!


A&S Urban (and not so Urban) Legends

For Arts & Science students like me, there are a lot of things you hear, some of them real and some of them legendary. These legends (or maybe even myths) are always the kinds of things you hear about, but are never really sure of. A lot of these concepts are important things to know as a student, and sometimes you just don’t want to scroll through pages and pages of fine print, which is why I’ve rounded up a handy list! Here are a few myths/real life concepts, what I’ve heard about them and what they actually are.

The Dean’s Promise

The concept of the Dean’s Promise is what’s mostly sparked the idea for this post after hearing fellow community crew members discussing it. Cynthia has also talked about the secretive ways to get what you want (such a foreign concept here…).The sheer power it seemed to hold for a fourth year, who after years of surviving the cruel hierarchies and twisted academic food chain, deserve some sort of leverage! And leverage it is: the Dean’s Promise ensures that if there is a class you need to get into for your program in your last year, but can’t because the cruel gods of the waitlist won’t allow you, you’ll still get in. Keep in mind that the course has to be mandatory, and there is a list that Arts & Sciences will place you in. In the end, you’ll get into a course that will make sure you meet the program requirements you need to graduate. I know, pretty mythical right? But true!

Credit/No Credit

I know, you hear a lot about credit/no credit, but I just thought I’d reiterate: the date has been extended, so you have more time to decide if you want to credit/no credit the course that won’t count for your program. Also, its changed from a 60% pass requirement to 50%.


Ah, one of my favorite words. I’m still trying to figure out in what forms this exists, but as soon as I find out, I’ll get back to you.

Drop Dates

This is one of my favourites, though mostly because a lot of my own friends weren’t aware of the policy. You can imagine how smug I felt explaining what section 3.2.3 says in the teaching handbook. It’s actually university regulation that you receive a significant portion of your mark before the drop date ends. Oh, and no course is allowed to have a single assignment or project to determine 100% of your mark.  Once I got over the initial excitement of becomeing aware of all these rules, I found it kind of discomforting that as a third year, here were all these rules I hadn’t been aware of.

ROSI Start Times

From what my registrar has told me, there apparently is a formula ROSI uses in deciding your start time within your year: the number of courses you have taken. Meaning, if you’ve taken far to many, chances are your start time will be earlier. (I know of one person whose was so early, they’ve been getting their start-time for the year above!) If you’re entering fourth year, ROSI kindly switches it up for you: the less credits you have, the earlier you’re up to bat, because even the Wicked Witch of Waiting wants you to graduate accordingly. I think it’s her way of making up for the three years of sheer terror, but call it what you will. It’s nice to know that in spite of the sheer panic that good ol’ Ro sometimes causes, there’s some sort of structure behind it.

 Old Exam Repository

While ASSU does have a huge test bank, there’s an old exam repository you can access online! While not all classes are on there, I’ve personally found a number of past tests from classes, and can be an incredibly helpful study guide.

Snow Days

LOL…but there is a number if, you know, this does actually become Frosty the Snowman’s wonderland someday: Snow Phone (Weather Advisory) – 416-978-SNOW


If there’s anything else you’re unsure about, the new artsci website is looking pretty neat and easy to navigate, or go visit your registrar’s office.


Ubuddy is my Buddy!

School has just started and I’m already tangled up in a web of course announcements, emails from my professors and fellow classmates, newsletters from the university, events listings from associations I take part in, college newsletters etc. It is exhausting trying to keep up with all the different possible means of electronic communication from campus. I compulsively check my Utor email, my home email, then blackboard, and occasionally ROSI (if I’m waiting on test scores). When you add to this the attempt to remain in communication with fellow classmates for group projects and socializing, the inefficiency of electronic communication on campus is just plain annoying!

By providence, after leaving a recent focus group on this exact topic, I noticed a poster pasted to a pole outside of the Koffler Building. I don’t know why I took notice; perhaps I was primed to pay attention to what sounded like a new social networking site. The sign read Ubuddy.org.

Later in the day as I was checking my email, I decided to find out what Ubuddy.org was. Indeed, it is a new social networking site created by U of T students for U of T students. Ubuddy is what you would get if Facebook and Blackboard had a baby. It’s a social networking site, where you can talk to classmates, exchange notes, organize study groups and events, and find support from fellow students.

Charles Qu, president of Ubuddy, explained to me that the service was born in 2011, to a group of proud U of T engineering students. Ubuddy’s two main goals are to allow fellow students to connect and to share course information, questions and resources. Ubuddy currently has about 3,000 students signed up, 2,500 of them being U of T students, but Ubuddy’s platform is open to students from universities across the nation.

In July of 2011, Ubuddy revamped their website to offer more services to its users. There is now a textbook exchange, as well as tutor listings, club pages, and student job listings.

UBuddy's new more user-friendly Homepage

We are all well aware of the shortcomings of Blackboard/Portal and I really don’t need to tell you all about the many elements of the site that drive students and professors mad throughout the school year. In comparison to the sites provided to us by U of  T, U buddy is a breath of fresh air. It is a model that the university could look to for improving current web platforms.

Who knows, maybe someone important will read this post and realize how vital it is that we students have a single web platform that allows us to access all the online content we need to be successful and happy students.





What exactly are you running for?

“If I don’t even pay much attention to our own country’s elections, why should I bother with my school elections?”

This is the common excuse that I have received when asking around about the upcoming end of year elections. I’m no expert on student governments, but based on what I’ve heard from other students, the majority find the student government system confusing and uninteresting.

To those who are active in the scene of school politics, there is a buzz of excitement and an air of ferocity with the conflicting opinions that I have received. Now you’re probably thinking, relax, it’s just student government after all, right? Well, it’s a bigger responsibility than serving on your high school’s student council, considering the difference in the student body that you must attend to. Talk to any of the student executives and you can hear the passion they have for what they do, no matter how challenging.

In high school you had to represent the student body that consisted of students in four different grades. With this type of school structure, one student governing body will suffice. A typical undergraduate student will spend four years at their given university, but don’t forget to take into account all seven colleges, the grad students, the part-timers, the residences, etc… and so forth. When it comes down to it, there are several student bodies to contend with. More than one student governing body is necessary for all of the different facets of student life. This poses a problem during campaigns because by the time you have caught a busy student’s attention during your 30-second elevator pitch, you only have about enough time to answer the question of: “What exactly are you running for?” It’s difficult to understand without knowing the student council structure off hand because chances are many students do not know as well as the students who are campaigning.

This takes me back to my first year RSM100 “Intro to Management” course where I learned the advantages and disadvantages of centralized and decentralized organizations. Centralized organizations have a less complex structure that allows for greater control over the organization, whereas decentralized organizations have a number of executives taking on very specific roles and have the ability to concentrate on the most important decisions. The University of Toronto is an example of a decentralized organization where there are several executives on different reigning councils that each has a specified job in representing and serving the rest of the student body. It really is a big role to take on and it’s a shame that even though our councils represent us, not many students make it a point to get informed and exercise their right to vote.

Let’s be real – in several of our high school student councils, a a big chunk of the vote was based on popularity.  In the case of our university, where it is hard not to get lost as just another student number, is it possible that these elections are just based off the popular vote? In the 2010 UTSU election, the voting turnout came out to approximately 16.4% of the 44,000 undergraduate population. Why the disappointing turn out? It’s not like voting is a complicated process. It can be easily done online from the comfort of your own laptop with a couple clicks and keystrokes on ROSI. Is it an issue of ineffective outreach or just outright lack of interest? Campaigns may be able to reel in student interest, but sometimes the simple act of actually taking the time to vote is where the interest ends.

One election that is going on right now until March the 11th, is the U of T Governing Council election. What is that, you ask? It is basically a senior governing body that oversees the academic, business and student affairs of the university. Strategic planning and implementation is where this important council comes in. They discuss things like finances and major institutional plans that affect the long term plans of our school. The council consists of appointed members and members elected from teaching staff, alumni and students. We have a say in electing who our student representatives are and they will be able to represent us on this council.

I was sure to take the time to vote, although I usually would find this process to be out of my reach. I went on the ROSI elections page, read the statements of each candidate, and clicked “Cast Ballot”. That was all there was to it. Imagine how a couple clicks have the potential to make changes. If there’s one thing I want to leave you with: remember guys, not voting says something too – silencing yourself, silencing your say over your rights. Just imagine a big piece of duct tape slapped right over your lips. Okay, it may not be that extreme.. but better to have a say than to stay silenced. So get off your couch and exercise that right to vote! (Or wait… you may not even have to get off the couch!) Happy voting everyone!

– Danielle

ROSI, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.

Hey y’all, happy summer, happy post-Pride, happy heat wave!

It’s a beautiful morning here in Koffler, if a bit muggy outside, I’m visualizing the wonderful salad I’m going to eat at lunch today, and a few mornings ago I had the Best. ROSI experience. Ever.

This is my fourth year enrolling in courses, so maybe I was due for a drama-free date with Lady ROSI (I used to picture this ROSI). I certainly hoped so. I had a great start time this year thanks to my year and Joint Specialist, which is brutal because it has so many requirements, but great for priority (P*) because it has so many requirements.

But I think beyond ROSI being a glorious, powerful creature this year, maybe I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade over the years that made this time go so smoothly.

How smoothly? My start time was at 7:10am and I signed in right then. My best-case-scenario schedule involved one course which has only five spaces, and only two of those were left by my start time, one seminar with seven spots left, and two classes with about 50 spots. I signed in, signed up and got Every. Last. One. I looked up and the time was 7:11.

One minute, four courses, no conflicts, no crying, no crashing computers, no need to refresh page.
To be perfectly honest, my ROSI drama doesn’t compare with others’, but I’ve had my fair share of freezing screens, waitlists, inability to enroll in more, and all-around insane stress. Except this year. Why? Well, since you ask, here they are, my tried, tested and true course selection tips. Warning: I bear a striking resemblance to Zooey Deschanel’s character in 500 Days of Summer.

Once you have an idea what program you want to be in, comb through its requirements. I find it helpful to write everything down in either flow-chart or mind-map form. I recommend having a rough list to begin with that’s basically just re-writing the program requirements in a way you can visually understand, whether that means writing out what the codes mean until they make sense (and don’t be afraid to call in re-enforcements!), or whatever. Biting off chunks at a time is less overwhelming, so I separate things into years to begin with and write down the core courses – classes that I have to take – for each year starting with my first.

Then, I go through my later years’ core courses, noting the pre-reqs for them, and adding those into the previous year’s required courses. Next, I look at other requirements, from most restrictive (least choices available) to least restrictive – in my case, I had to take a fourth year Political Economy course and there were only two options, so they got priority in terms of making sure either fit in, in contrast to, say, “a 300-level ECO course,” of which there are many available. So go through the specific requirement categories in terms of years, and make a subcategory under the year, like I’ve done, with the requirement and all the courses that can be counted towards it.

Then – the fun part! Or at least it’s fun for me (thankfully the cough*nerd*cough has gone out of style). You get to go through the options in the calendar and see which ones sound interesting. I’m all about the colour coding, so I like to have colours for “most exciting,” “medium exciting” and “oh please ROSI, no, no! I beg of you!”

I suggest doing this for each requirement category for each year, including the degree requirements for, say, an Honours BA. If there’s a course that you are absolutely in love with, note its pre-reqs and slot them into their appropriate years. But WARNING! Courses get cancelled across years, something which jaded third years know all-too-well, although I certainly didn’t understand the magnitude of this as an eager first-year. I’ve waited with bated breath for certain classes only for them to be cruelly dropped from the listings without even a blank space and a red “cancel,” as if I had dreamed them.

The silver lining is that often a fourth-year seminar that you think looks really cool in your first or second year has pre-reqs for a reason – they build your education in that direction. So looking at courses and pre-reqs can be a great way to get direction in the early going.

Though it’s different for everyone, at some point in this process I would *highly* recommend talking to your registrar or getting some kind of academic advice. Personally, I like to really sink my teeth into picking courses before I see my registrar, so I can build up a list of questions (which, likely, you will have – somehow codes are not always the clearest things in the world).

But be warned! The registrar’s office is the “it” spot on campus come start times, so try to get in early. Also, make sure you’re talking to the right person for your question – for questions about your degree requirements, your college or faculty is your spot, but for questions about your program there should be an advisor listed on the department’s site. Though they may not be this good across the board, the economics advisor is on it – a true ROSI wizard who answers questions precisely and effectively in record time. There are also a few online helpers kicking around, such as Degree Navigator (found right next to ROSI at the sign-in stage), which I have had some bad experiences with. To fill this void, U of T alum have been working with students to develop an online course selection tool, project AUGUR, so stay tuned for it!

Okay, now that you have your completed year-by-year, you are ready to make your schedule! Though a lot of folks use Excel, I prefer the old-fashioned pen-to-paper method. Start with your core courses, find them in the timetable and slot them in. Then, play around a bit. See what times conflict with your core courses and make judgment calls: (1) Is either course necessary for that year as a pre-req for a subsequent year? (2) If both courses are year-flexible, which would suit your schedule better? For example, if one comes right after another and is all the way across campus, it might be better to opt for something closer. As well, which is better-suited in terms of coursework? I like having a mix of reading-heavy and problem-set heavy courses each year, but others find it better to focus on one type of work a year.

Finally, if there’s lots of flexibility across courses and times (you lucky devil!), there are basically two main factors: schedule and course content. Re: schedule, I like having morning classes so I get on campus early and can spend my days at the library, but friends of mine function better in the afternoon – it’s totally personal and totally a learning process of what works for you.

For course content, use the calendar as your starting point, but beyond that there are lots of resources at your disposal. ASSU releases the anti-calendar every year which is worth its weight in GPA points. It describes classes in terms of workload and difficulty and ranks the profs in a number of areas, all based on evaluations students who took the course last year filled out. I pay special attention to the retake rate, as well as the proportion of the class who responded – the higher the proportion, the more reliable the results, I’ve found.

Once you’ve made your dream schedule, make a few back-ups based on if-then scenarios. For example, if I don’t get into this course which has “x” spots available, then my schedule will look like this; if I don’t get into this other course, my schedule will look like this. Also, it’s good to have a list on hand of classes that fill certain requirements, listed from most desirable to least so if you don’t get into one, you can just move on to the next one. (Note: as course selection approaches, you can check how many spots are left by clicking on “course enrolment” in the sidebar, then “view timetable/spaces” and entering the course code in question – with that and your start time, you can get a pretty accurate idea of how likely it is that you’ll be able to get in.)

Phew! Okay, I think that’s it! I’ve either just helped a few people, or exposed to everyone that I am absolutely insane. But if you have any questions post them in the comments. This year I fielded questions from friends for a few weeks prior, figured out what one friend needed to graduate the night before, and actually enrolled a friend who was stuck in traffic the day of, so it’s safe to say I know my way around the process a little too well. Also, the skills are totally non-transferable, so I have to put them to use while I can.

Happy heatwave, y’all! And I hope you’re schedules end up like this..

– Liz

The Breadth Requirement: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

I have this theory that the Faculty of Arts & Science, like the plethora of technological advancements that continue to seep into our everyday lives, is almost always trying to make things less complicated but almost always ends up achieving the exact opposite.

First and foremost, there is the calendar. It is now 584 pages long, in comparison to the one last year,  which was only 568 pages. Of course, it’s not the quantity that counts, but quality. Thankfully, in terms of Distribution Requirements, this year Arts & Science decided to eliminate its lists of Humanity Courses for Science and Social Science Students, as well as Science Courses for Humanities and Social Science Students (Page 27 of the Calendar).

At first glance, this is great news. The fact that there were two separate distribution requirements for Humanities and Social Science yet one list that combines course suggestions for both areas of study always drove me completely nuts (for some reason humanities courses are always more abundant than social science courses!). Whenever it came to course selection, I used to just sit in front of my desk and flip through the pages of my calendar for hours, hoping to stumble upon a course slightly less random than FCS298H1: French Culture and Asia.

Things were switched up a bit for the new calendar. Instead of two lists that have at best stimulated my creative problem-solving abilities, now there’s a Distribution Requirement designation that follows each and every course description in the calendar (more details can be found on Page 26 of the 2010-11 calendar). So now, for any course of interest that is outside your discipline of study, you no longer need to rely on Six Degrees of Separation to find some guy or some girl who has taken the course (you deserve a pat on the back if you ever get to this stage) but who nevertheless may not be able to answer your question regarding whether or not it actually counts as a social science or a humanities credit. But now, the designation says it all:

DR=HUM–> It’s a humanities course!

DR=SOC SCI –> It’s a social science course!

DR=SCI –> It’s a science course!

But Lucy, you ask, my brain is not yet overwhelmed by this information. Does this mean that my rigorous education at U of T has finally made me smarter?!

Ah, but you see, there is more. It turns out, just as the school’s finally smoothing out the knots regarding degree requirements, it’s not even going to be used for students beginning their studies in September 2010 or after. What replaces it is something called Breadth Requirement, which classifies courses offered by Arts and Science into 5 categories according to subject content:

BR=1: Creative and Cultural Representations

BR=2: Thought, Belief, and Behaviour

BR=3: Society and Its Institutions

BR=4: Living Things and Their Environment

BR=5: The Physical and Mathematical Universes

Basically, students must take at least four full-course equivalents (FCEs) that have so far been assigned a BR designation – currently, only 100-level and 200-level courses hold such designations. Some do not have BR designations and show up as BR=none. The rest still show up as BR=TBA (BR designations for these will be available on the Faculty website this summer). These four FCEs can be fulfilled in one of two ways:

1. Take at least 1 FCE from each of 4 (out of the 5) categories mentioned above.

2. Take at least 1 FCE from each of 3 (out of the 5) categories mentioned above; for the remaining 2 categories, take at least 0.5 FCE from each.

Courses taken to fulfill the Breadth Requirement must have an assigned BR designation (i.e. it can’t be BR=TBA). The student must hold academic standing in this course. This course does not need to be used to satisfy a program requirement, and it can be taken as CR/NCR.

It all sound so grand (I mean, it must be when words like “cultural representation” is thrown around the circle). But how would we know what kind of a course would fit each of these categories? For something like CLA203 Science in Antiquity, for example, how would students actually intuit the fact that it falls under the BR category of “Thought, Belief and Behaviour”?

If I’ve had so much trouble to even think up a course that could be a social science course, how much trouble might students encounter when left to pick courses out of the whole 584 pages of possibilities that would fit into not one of three but five (much more ambiguous) categories?

Finally, it’s not like course selection at the St. George campus has always been a breeze. How would anyone actually go about picking courses that, on top of fulfilling a BR designation, also fulfill the following:

1. It must fit an undergrad’s complicated schedule.

2. It must have a reasonable enrollment indicator so that by the time Priority round lifts, there will still be spaces left for enrollment. It also can’t be an “R” or “RP” course.

3. The student must be eligible to take the course based on exclusion, pre-requisites and co-requisites.

4. It must not be too difficult for students specializing in a significantly different program of study (e.g. a student specializing in immunology taking courses in English literature).


I guess ultimately, adaptation is necessary for anyone who has the need to keep up with an evolving system. Maybe this is just like natural selection: along the process of change, somehow students will just figure it all out. I mean, they have to, right? After all, we all want a happy ending.


Making sense of the U of T elections

You’ve seen the posters everywhere on campus – Vote for so-and-so!

And somewhere in your subconscious, you probably realized there’s an election coming up at the University. But if you’re like me, you just don’t care. It has nothing to do with you. You’re probably annoyed, too – last semester, there was a period of time when I wasn’t able to study at the cafeteria of Gerstein without getting interrupted by potential candidates who needed endorsement (i.e. student signatures). I signed every single one thrust my way before they could start their 30-seconds elevator pitch.

It’s also easy to get confused. Governing Council elections are on right now, so the campaign posters you’ve been seeing are for that. UTSU General Election campaigning starts at noon today, and campaigning for EngSoc (for engineering students only) starts next week. There are so many different elections and campaigns and names and people telling you to vote for them that you probably could not care less.

It wasn’t until I saw a good friend of mine working tirelessly on a campaign on top of her already crazy schedule that I really stopped to ask, “Why do you care so much?”

She said simply, “because I believe in the candidate running.”

Talking to my friend gave me that push to do some research. I found that a lot of students care about their rights and issues like equity and sustainability but don’t know what to do about it. Voting for the right candidate allows your voice to reach the administration. That candidate can then fight for you on issues ranging from academic conduct, such as using turnitin.com, to freedom of information, such as whether or not professors can put their course texts online to save students money, to what President David Naylor‘s “Towards 2030” means for undergraduates students.

With a newfound sense of purpose, I logged on to ROSI to vote in the General Election. Clicking on “Elections” led me to this page:

The layout is simple and clean. ROSI‘s already filtered out which constituency I fall under, so I don’t have to think. I just have to vote. I spent the next five minutes skimming through the Governing Council candidates’ statements and for the first time I felt like I was on the other end of the interviewing table, looking at cover letters and resumes. Punctuation/grammar fail? Next. Pretentious sounding? Next. Random Capitalization All over The place? Next. In the end, I was left with two candidates who sounded humble and had relevant experience. I clicked “Cast Ballot” and was told that my vote was cast:

The process took less time than making my TEGA and you know what? Voting felt kind of… good. In the I choose you! kind of way. If voting means the things I care about at the University are voiced, and that the candidate I voted for can have a direct impact during my time here, then the few minutes it took to log on to ROSI, vote and log off was well worth spending.

For your information, the Governing Council elections run until March 12th, and the UTSU one runs from March 16-18th.

In the end, I may not care enough about the elections to actually help run it, or help campaign for it, but at least now I care enough to go vote.

– Cynthia

How do I shrug off the label “WAIT-LISTED”?

I have an exam in 3.5 hours. Any coherent statements I make will have something to do to with the fundamental principles of justice, the prosecution process or police discretion. Turning off the criminal law in my brain seems impossible, so in an attempt to go with the flow and stick by the principle of fairness, I turn to the issue of wait lists on ROSI.

This year (and this may be, in part, because I am a third-year student) all of my courses are half-credits. This means that I have a bit of flexibility in between semesters to change my courses. I think this flexibility is crucial in the later years of your undergraduate degree, particularly since you are short on time to fulfill program requirements, distribution requirements and prerequisites.

When I talk to program directors, most of them assume that if I am changing my courses in between semesters, it means I didn’t plan properly over the summer. In fact, quite the contrary: I’m the kid who takes three days straight to look through the entire calendar and who has her schedule completely planned out before registration even opens. When I signed up for my courses in the summer, I was immediately put on the wait list, detailing my troubles on Cynthia’s awesome post:

Cynthia, you are so lucky.
I signed on at exactly 11:22, and was promptly slapped on the wrist by ROSI, telling me I dare not try to sign on again, until my designated time of 11:25. At that point, the first, second, fourth and fifth courses I entered, I was put on a wait list…and I’m still there ( Ever so sad, as I realize, I am doomed to live the life of those dreaded, anxious “WAIT-LISTED” students!

The wait-listing problem doesn’t end after the summer; in fact, it can extend into your second-semester courses. Often, students become familiar with professors in the first semester, and because they enjoy being in their classes, hope to move to another class with the same prof for the next term. Other times, getting off the wait list for one course can cause a timing conflict, which forces you to delete the conflicting course and look for another course, putting you on the wait list again. In addition, because many of your courses are half-credits, you have the flexibility to discover what courses interest you and modify your following semester’s schedule accordingly. The point is, many students change courses for great reasons, not necessarily poor planning.

I’ve tried to figure out why wait lists are in place. In response to the question, why not raise the cap on class enrolment, a number of professors have mentioned that class size is determined by the room capacity. I like the honesty, and I see the point: you can’t squish 100 students in a classroom meant for 60. Its a fire hazard, if nothing else!

But as a good friend pointed out to me, you shouldn’t have to pay to take courses you really don’t want to take, especially if the course you want is restricting you solely because you are a fire hazard. Not only are you jeopardizing your education, your GPA and your degree by “settling” and taking courses you don’t like, but it is a waste of your money. It is quite unfair. In an institution of higher learning, such as the wonderful University of Toronto, I think there must be a viable solution (like moving the class to a larger classroom?). In many cases, the University doesn’t really know what’s going to be popular until the courses fill up, but I think there must be some way to take wait lists into consideration, even after the fact.

If you are on a wait list (as I am), or multiple wait lists (as I am), then my utopian ideals aren’t helping you much. The problem is, I don’t really have a solution for you. After extensive research, I’m always directed to another person — the professor, the registrar’s office, the program director… You should take the time to plan your degree, but I think there is not enough support when those plans don’t turn out exactly as you’d like.

So here is something a little different: I am am appealing to my knowledgeable fellow students for advice. How can we solve this problem of wait lists? Any ideas?

– Fariya