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  • Joanne Tong


Updated: Aug 2, 2020


Class-Shopping. Pen and ink. Originally published in the Daily Pennsylvanian on September 6, 2007.

Choosing classes felt a lot like shopping — students were presented with endless options (leafing through the course catalogue at the beginning of each semester was fun), inventory for each option was limited (slots filled up quickly!), and there was a pretty fair return policy (during the add-drop window, you could “try” classes out and then drop them without consequences, i.e., the scarlet “I” for “Incomplete” on your transcript).

At the end of every semester, professors were required to hand out course evaluation forms, allowing students to rank them on dimensions such as Teaching Quality and Difficulty. That feedback was aggregated and posted online for future students to factor into their course selection — it was the college equivalent of Consumer Reports.*

Many students took harder classes and said that they learned so much more in the process, but others also took advantage of the GPA boost that less challenging classes provided. (“I’m doing Organic Chem, Chem Lab, upper-level Stats, and my Senior Thesis. Yes, I think I’ll take ‘Rocks for Jocks’** as my free elective this sem…”)

This is a scan of the original drawing prior to publication. More about my stint at the DP here.


* Another shopping parallel: Brand name trumped cost. In the case of instructors known as the go-to professors for certain courses (e.g., Shell for Negotiations, Siegel for Finance), their classes were always full (with a waitlist!), regardless of their Difficulty ranking…

** I never figured out which Geology class this was — I only heard it referred to by its colloquial name. (One of the upperclassmen joked that one of the midterm questions was, “What is your birthstone?”) The other class that was supposed to be notoriously easy was a class in the Music department colloquially referred to as “Clapping for Credit.” Not that anyone would ever spell that out on a course evaluation, though…

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