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Registering For Classes: A Cautionary Tale

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My first semester in college I took a class about AIDS. It taught me a valuable lesson about course registration.

When I was an incoming freshman at University I made an ambitious promise to myself: I was going to learn from the best at UT. I was in school to learn, not just get good grades. So I wanted the best professors, not just the best classes. I was determined to get my money’s worth—even if it meant a lower GPA.

During my summer orientation, the night before it was time to register for classes, I sat down at my computer and did my research on Professors at UT. I checked RateMyProfessors for the best professors in the most interesting disciplines. And I was not disappointed by my results.

There were several professors who had glowing reviews. One of these was a Rhetoric/Writing instructor named Thomas Buckley. His reviews had the words “lifechanging” and “best class at UT” littered throughout. I knew I had to sign up for one of his classes.

So when my registration window opened up, I promptly typed in “Buckley” in the search engine tool, and registered for the first course I saw: HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, led by an instructor named Buckley. Conveniently, it was a UGS course, which I needed to take. Perfect! I can’t believe how easy that was, I thought to myself.

I’m not sure if it was when I walked into the auditorium and was handed a syllabus from a female professor, or when she said that she was an economist/sociologist specializing in AIDS that I realized that there could be more than one Buckley at the University. I had mistakenly registered for Cynthia Buckley’s introductory course on HIV/AIDS—not Thomas Buckley’s life-changing course on writing.

I’ll spare you the full details of my sob story, but I ended up with a C-minus in that class. (After reading approximately 1500 pages of literature/statistics/scientific journals about the nitty-gritty science behind the transmission/spread of HIV/AIDS.) Thankfully that C-minus was mercifully bumped up to a C-plus by the department after determining that our assigned reading load—40% more than all other UGS courses—was “excessive for a first-year Undergraduate Studies course.”

To be fair, not everything about that course was awful. Professor Buckley was genuinely passionate about the topic and her lectures were very informative—it’s just a shame that nobody was there to enjoy them at 8 am.

And the group project—which most people found to be a colossal waste of time—gave a unique opportunity to meet the other people in the class who (also) didn’t go to lecture. We got to spend 10 hours together handing out condoms to strangers on the West Mall.

You’re welcome for the free condoms. Courtesy of the University Health Services.

I made some great friends in that class. We have a special camaraderie only acquired by sharing a traumatic experience, sort of like what I imagine veterans and Chilean miners share.

It was pretty common for one of us in the HIV/AIDS class to bump into one another on the quad on the way to class. Sometimes we’d find out we had mutual friends. Whenever they’d ask “How do you two know each other?”, we would always simultaneously reply,  ”We had AIDS together.”

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