Friday, October 06, 2006

A Numb(er)ing Committee

Earlier this week I received in the mail a ballot for the officers for one of the professional societies to which I belong. Being the passionate fan of democracy that I am, I almost always actually read these things and vote. Usually I don't know any of the candidates, so I read over their statements and bios and make my decision based on some arbitrary and possibly even capricious reasons.

I was reading one such bio and got to the section listing professional service. To my amazement, the following committee was listed Florida Statewide Committee on Common Course Numbering. Wow. Many questions come to mind. Why do you need a committee to figure out course numbering? Course numbers are arbitrary, no? Couldn't somebody just assign the numbers? Who could possibly care? Will someone get really angry that their new course is listed as Sociology 127 instead of Sociology 134? And why does a state need a common number system, anyway? I suppose this could make transferring credit easier if one goes from one state school to another. But it seems that even with different numbering systems this isn't that tricky.

But here's the truly astounding part: The person whose bio I was reading has been on this committee sine 1984. That's 22 years. How can it possibly take 22 years to come up with common course numbering? No wonder Florida has a hard time running elections--it takes them at least 22 years to number university courses. Or is it a standing committee? If so, what possible ongoing business could this committee have? It absolutely boggles the mind.

Occasionally I feel that I'm engaged in Sisyphean tasks at COA. A friend has suggested that I keep the bio about the Course Numbering Committee as a sort of affirmation. When I'm feeling down I can look at the bio and be thankful that I don't have to serve on a committee that takes 22 years to number courses.


Philip Roberts said...

Having unified state wide course number would make in state tranfers trivial. Which I imagine is a big administrative savings, especially if you have a lot of community colleges feeding into a state university, the CC's SOCL 101 can directly transfer into credit at the university

The reason the committe would need to stick around would be to keep new addition in sync, when University A wants to offer a new course the committee then would assign the course the same number as is being used at other schools for the same material.

Dave said...

Point well taken. I do see a need for a statewide numbering system. But why does it take a committee to figure this out? Couldn't this be done by one person -- a statewide registrar -- much more efficiently?