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The JRSR and SNRS course designations

Topics/tags: Registration, Grinnell

It’s preregistration time at Grinnell. In a few days, I’ll write my regular commentary about the end of preregistration. Right now, I see that my section of CSC 151 is among the most heavily enrolled courses, with 28 students currently enrolled [1,2]. Intro Linguistics is also at 28 [3], but only first-year and second-year students can preregister for that course. And that brings me to the subject of today’s musing, the JRSR designation, which indicates that the course is [n]ot open to juniors [sic] or seniors during preregistration. There’s also an SNRS designation, which indicates that the course is [n]ot open to seniors.

A line from the course catalog that reads '82182 [TAB] LIN-114-01 ,TAB] Introduction to General Linguistics [TAB] Hansen [TAB] 4 [TAB] MWF [TAB] 9:00 AM [TAB] 9:50 [TAB] JRSR'.  The 'JRSR' is highlighted.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those designations during this preregistration period, particularly as my advisees are unable to register for Intro Linguistics and Intro Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies. I have a few advisees who’ve shown an interest in Intro Linguistics but have not been able to get in because of the JRSR designation. I’ve seen fewer problems with Intro GWSS.

Here’s the thing. As far as I know, all disciplines end up prioritizing potential majors and concentrators over those who are taking the course because they have an interest in the subject or want to broaden their course of study [4]. But most of us drop students after preregistration, rather than beforehand. And I think that’s the better strategy. Why? Here are a few reasons.

First, preregistration provides a record of the attempts. Because the system won’t let them click the Register button, There’s no way for a faculty member to know that a senior has tried to register for Intro Linguistics for the past three semesters. There’s no way to tell the difference between a senior who included Intro Linguistics as one of their top courses and one who decided to try it after getting dropped from another class. Our registration system exists, in part, to provide such data. These designations prevent the gathering of such data.

Second, it appears to prevent agency by the faculty member. Someone teaching Intro Linguistics might decide that a senior who has tried for three straight semesters deserves priority over a second-semester second-year student. But they can’t make that decision since you can’t drop someone who has preregistered in favor of someone who did not preregister. Of course, it may be that the Linguistics Concentration wanted to remove the burden of making that choice from individual faculty members; I’m not sure.

Third, it’s not always implemented correctly. I had at least one senior preregister for Intro Linguistics, only to discover a few days later that they were no longer registered. At least we discovered that soon enough to make alternative plans early on.

So why have that designation? One advantage is that it clearly signals students that they have very little chance of getting the course after their first two years (or first three years, for the SNRS designation). I’m not sure of others.

As far as I can tell, this semester there is only one course with the JRSR designation (LIN-114, Intro Linguistics) and only two with the SNRS designation (GWSS-111, Intro Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies and THD-117, Introduction to Acting). There were two other JRSR courses in the fall: REL-102 (Studying Religion: America) and REL-104 (Studying Religion: India). There were three other SNRS in the fall, all 100-level courses in Theatre.

It makes me wonder: What happened that the disciplines or faculty offering the courses decided they needed to restrict preregistration in this way? And why don’t we make sure that we have enough staffing to permit more sections of Intro Linguistics?

[1] The course has a cap of 32, so there’s still room. And we do cuts, closes, and balances after preregistration, so students should still feel comfortable registering for the class.

[2] There were 25 registered at noon today. Three registered between noon and 8 pm on a Sunday. Strange.

[3] Intro Linguistics was at 24 when I checked at noon. I am surprised at how many students are registering on a Sunday afternoon. Of course, since I approved the course for a second-year advisee sometime today, I’m pretty sure that one of them is one of my advisees.

[4] Because they bridge approaches, Linguistics and GWSS both provide great opportunities for broadening study. Linguistics, in particular, gives students experience with science, with the study of society, and with a type of language study.

Version 1.0 released 2018-11-11.

Version 1.0.1 of 2018-11-11.