Whenever I’m on the USC campus, the students treat me kindly, respectfully and deferentially. Maybe they think I’m faculty who never got around to retiring, but nevertheless, I appreciate their welcoming spirit. That’s why it comes as such a jolt to find that the administration doesn’t want me around.
For years, I’ve been registering to audit one course almost every semester, and I’ve appreciated the university’s generosity in charging me only student fees and not tuition.
I was able to register a month or two before the semester started, and since I was only auditing, I had no guilt about taking up a precious space that an undergraduate or graduate student might need to complete a degree. Neither was I a burden on any professor’s time since I did not write papers or take exams that had to be graded.
But now we seniors can only register during the five-day add-drop week. We cannot sign up to audit any class that is filled, which often means we cannot sign up for the class of our choice. Last semester I could not sign up for any class because the window had closed by the time I found out about this new policy. This semester I could not register for any class because I was not registered last semester, and thus was kicked out of the computer system.
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After several phone calls, I learned that I must reapply to the university as a not-degree-seeking student, which may take several days and may not happen before the add-drop period ends, though I finally found someone who promised to help me sign up later.
We’re old. We’re not accustomed and often not able to be tossed from website to phone call to long lines at brick-and-mortar buildings. What possibly can be the point of these arbitrary protocols and unannounced changes except to discourage us from spending time at the university?
And this is especially sad because the message our presence on campus sends to young students is that learning is a lifelong process and that, even though it may not always seem that way, it is ultimately joyful.