Note: Update 1 Below
I thought I'd give my readers a STOC-break and discuss beginning-of-the-semester frustration with a stupid Harvard rule.
Setup: Math 123 (2nd semester algebra) and CS 124 (my algorithms/data structures course) are at the same time this year. Both are important prereq courses for many other courses. There are a small number of joint Math/CS majors, who, naturally, really want to take both. (They're both only offered spring semester.)
Now, since my class is recorded and put online for the Harvard Extension School -- usually now within 24 hours -- and Harvard students are given access to all these videos, this wouldn't seem to be a problem. The students take both classes and just watch the videos for mine. Is it ideal? Of course not. But it's better than making them wait a year to take one of these important classes. I do have Teaching Assistants and sections and office hours and TA office hours and all class notes online and such so they do have resources besides the recording. There are other details -- arranging final exams, for instance -- but I (and the math professor) have expressed our willingness to deal with that.
The administration says no.
Apparently, the rules on the books for "simultaneous enrollments" (taking two classes at the same time) won't allow for recorded lectures, and despite my plea for an exception in this clearly suitable case, the rule is, apparently, the rule.
Except (as I've also informed the rule-enforcing-body) it's really not. Because in this case the students will simply sign up for an independent study with me, CS91r, and have the content of their independent study be the class CS 124. This is less than ideal for everybody -- the students don't get proper credit for the course they're taking, I don't get the TA-resources associated with the students, and there's more paperwork for everyone. But it seems clear to me (and, apparently, the students, who asked me to do this) that this is in the students' best interest, so that's what I'll do.
But still, the rule-enforcing body says, the rule's the rule, and they'll enforce it.
I'm sending them all a link to this post so they can defend themselves if they choose. Feel free to comment with your own stories of stupid rule enforcement at your university...
I'm happy to say that I've had further conversations with the powers-that-be, and I think we've come up with a mutually acceptable interpretation of the rules that will allow the students to register for the class. I have to thank the powers-that-be for working with me, and on reflection, it undoubtedly wasn't because I got angry about it, but simply because I was consistent in asking if there was some kind of solution. It's still got to pass through a vote of a committee, but I'm optimistic, and I certainly feel they listened to my concerns -- which doesn't always happen with a bureaucracy!