Today is a special day. No, not because it’s Voltaire’s birthday, because I’m sure that’s what you thought I was going to say. The joyous day to which I am referring is the beginning of registration for Winter 2003 classes. But now that I think about it, what better to guide us through the trials and tribulations of Wolverine Access, the course guide and the first few weeks of classes themselves than the wit of the satirical French philosopher. And while these clever aphorisms may not guarantee you the perfect schedule and eternal educational bliss, they may help you to keep your head on straight in the topsy-turvy world of registration.

Paul Wong
Andy Taylor-Fabe

“Chance is a word void of sense; nothing can exist without a cause.”

One of the first things to remember when choosing classes is that you can’t be afraid to be shallow, because things in the course guide exist for a reason. Sure, looks can be deceiving; you can’t judge a book by its cover – blah, blah, blah; but when it comes to the course guide, use the professors’ pictures wisely. It’s simple: If a professor looks mean in the picture, don’t convince yourself that it is just random chance; he is probably mean. After all, he chose the damn picture.

And if she has very tightly clenched lips and has a mouth that, to paraphrase Roald Dahl, looks like a dog’s butt, take it as an warning of future treachery and misery. Remember elementary school? You could always tell who the mean teacher was right away. Why should it be any different now? Trust your gut; as Voltaire said, “The safest course is to do nothing against one’s conscience.”

“The best way to become boring is to leave nothing out.”

Analyze the class description in the course guide carefully. If it seems particularly wordy and tedious, it might, just might, be a preview of what is to come. If there are 12 paragraphs about some excruciatingly boring subject, take that as a big, red warning light. And watch carefully for what isn’t written as well. Just because the description doesn’t specifically mention a huge term paper, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Voltaire was all over that: “You see many stars at night in the sky but find them not when the sun rises; can you say that there are no stars in the heaven of day?”

“Everything’s fine today, that is our illusion.”

Pay very close attention to the second day of lecture. Forget the first lecture, when the professor spends an hour reading the syllabus and discussing the direction of the class. The second day is the real test. If you are not absolutely enthralled on this day, get out. Run. The professor is bringing his A-game that day, and if you don’t like the class or the prof now, you’re going to hate them later.

You’re going to slowly begin to resent the class and be disgusted by the very sight of the person who is responsible for your torment. You can begin to hate someone who is actually a very nice person but who just happens to really suck at lectures, and why waste your contempt on professors when there are so many scorn-worthy people out there in the world, e.g. the French. I’m kidding of course. No, I’m not.

“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.”

If you find yourself in the above predicament with an uninspiring professor, don’t be afraid to get the hell out of there. Too many people see choosing classes like marriage. No, bad example. OK, I’ve got it – like buying a new car: You’re in it for the long haul. The safety and comfort of having your classes chosen and your schedule set is a dangerous position to be in. So get some backbone, find that other class that you would rather be in and leave the crappy class behind. As the Volt-man said, “Man is free at the moment he wishes to be … as long as the drop/add deadline hasn’t passed.”

“Anything too stupid to be said is sung.”

“Sung” is French for “said in discussion section,” right? The point is, don’t drop a class if you hit the house numbers in the GSI roulette game. You may have to suffer through a few painful hours of a worthless section, but if the lecture itself is good, tough it out.

“As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities”

The specific absurdity and atrocity to which I am referring (and I’m sure Voltaire was too) are, respectively, the absurd and erroneous belief that just because a professor tells you to read something, you actually have to do every bit of it and the foolhardy atrocity of simultaneously tackling all assigned reading for all of your classes, rendering you a joyless, free-timeless drone. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do any of it. You’re here to learn, and you are paying for it. But you have to find your equilibrium, for like the V-Dogg explained, “Neither abstinence nor excess ever renders man happy.”

Oh, and to any of my current or future professors who happen to read this, I can only offer one last bit of Voltaire’s wisdom: “Love truth, and pardon error, so please don’t hold any of this against Andy when you give out grades.”

– Andy Taylor-Fabe can be reached at andytayl@umich.edu.

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