The sky must be falling. Just a few hours ago, a Marxist feminist professor sent an email that I agreed with completely. It explained why she doesn’t allow people to cut in line by enrolling in classes for which they have not yet satisfied the enrollment requirements. I’m so inspired by her eloquence that I am extending her logic and banning illegal aliens from enrolling in my classes. Her inspirational email is printed below:
“I do not provide overrides for students who haven’t completely satisfied the pre-requisites for the senior seminar to enroll. That would be like allowing (cutting) in line in front of someone else who has been waiting (his or her) turn. Once (they) have senior standing, then (they) can enroll in the class provided all the other pre-requisites are completed too … Several faculty members have sent advisees to me to request an override. I’m not doing them. I would appreciate it if advisers would not send their advisees to me with these requests.”
In case you did not follow that, let me provide a little context. Our majors are required to take a senior seminar before they graduate. However, before they enroll in the senior seminar, they have to take two classes – one in research methods and the other in statistics. Students usually take these two classes their junior year so they can be prepared to take senior seminar their senior year, which, of course, makes intuitive sense.
Of course, for every student that is less motivated than the average student there is one more motivated than the average student. In fact, some are so highly motived that they actually complete their research methods class and statistics class by the end of their sophomore year, rather than their junior year. So why not let them take the senior seminar their junior year? They have already completed the necessary prerequisites. Why hold them up based on the mere technicality that the senior seminar is only for seniors.
The answer is that allowing cutting in line has real world consequences. We have about 80 graduates per year. Thus we offer about four of these seminars per year with an enrollment of about 20 per class. That means we have just enough seats to accommodate all the graduating seniors. But if we granted registration overrides, which would allow juniors to enroll, then some seniors would be bumped out of the classes. That means they would have their graduation postponed as a result. In her email, the Marxist professor indicates she understands this and then proceeds to raise two moral objections. The first objection is explicit and the second one is implicit:
- 1. Allowing people to cut in line is simply wrong. This one fascinates me because the author of the email is avowedly postmodern in her worldview. Her postmodernism questions the existence of objective truth. But when it comes to living in the real world, as opposed to the classroom, there is an acknowledged need for moral absolutes.
- 2. Asking someone to extend preferential treatment is also wrong. Notice the testy tone at the end of the professor’s email, which, again, I fully endorse. She is absolutely correct to object to colleagues who have put her in a difficult position by sending students to her with special requests. This produces the awkward dilemma of having to either a) explain the obvious wrongfulness of allowing line cutting, or b) extend special treatment to someone.
Some people who are reading this column think they know where I am going with all of this. They assume that I will try to compare students seeking overrides with illegal immigrants seeking amnesty. That assumption is born of careless thinking and is way off the mark. Allow me to correct the error and explain why the two groups are not equal.
Our students who seek early enrollment in senior seminar got into the position they are in by being responsible. They finished their prerequisites early and now seek a reward for engaging in what is indisputably good behavior. But practical considerations require us to deny their requests. In contrast, illegal immigrants who seek amnesty got into the position they are in by being criminals. They jumped the border early and now seek a reward for what is indisputably anti-social behavior. Such people don’t really care about practical considerations.
So what makes some of my leftist colleagues against allowing line jumping by good students yet enthusiastically in favor of allowing line jumping by illegal immigrants? In other words, why don’t they live out their professional lives the same way they live out their political lives? (For additional context see my recent column, “Professor, Hypocrite, Tear Down This Wall!”).