Tag Archives: colloquium magnum

A little dissent before breakfast

Can’t say I’m thrilled to hear about the caps being imposed upon the CMs, or really how the entire process is being handled. I understand why these restrictions were put in place — fifty people will not fit in the Mythbusters colloquium one way or another, for example — but in practice all they seem to be doing is making people unhappy.

I believe that limitations set in stone are not the way to approach the creative and flexible world of CMs. Highly structured CMs have never had to happen before — in my mind, they’re meant to be as much about bonding with a group of peers who share your interests as they are about their laid-back, casual style of presenting new information. That’s not to say that they’re not “real classes.” Heck, I learned more practical life skills in Main Campbell’s Apocalypse Planning Contingency CM last year than I did in most of my other academic courses. What distresses me now is the number of freshmen and transfer students who are still new to this process, and are now stressed out over something that’s meant to be fun.

I suggested a drop-add period might be wise to instate, as people’s schedules are bound to shift over Christmas break and it would be awful for them to have something that conflicts with their colloquium but no other options because the sections that might work for them have been previously filled. And there are the unfortunate souls who missed the 7:00 window (sometimes by just refreshing a page too slowly) and might be stuck in a course they’re totally not interested in, with no options to force-add or trade. Perhaps instead of hard limits to the number of students in a class, the CM leaders could opt to accept a limited number of additional students (20 in total might make a nice high-water mark) if they’re comfortable leading that many and they feel like their class would lend itself well to a slightly larger group. While Classic Russian Literature would probably work best with a smaller number of people to facilitate intense literary discussion, for example, something like the Mythbusters CM could handle more people as they’ll just be watching an episode and demonstrating experiments together.

Hopefully we’ll get this process figured out. I’m leading the Tea CM this semester, and I’ll be sure to ask the students I’m working with how they feel about this process, and see if we can’t generate some solutions together for the next time sign-ups roll around.


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We’re falling through space, you and me.

Last Wednesday marked the beginning of the Doctor Who and Philosophy colloquium, which I’m finally getting around to writing about nearly a week later. (As the Doctor says, you should always waste time when you don’t have any. Time is not the boss of you.)

As this served mostly as an introduction to the world of Doctor Who, this week’s question was not particularly philosophical, but made for a good discussion anyway: if a man with a blue box showed up and offered to take you away on adventures through space and time, would you go with him?

My answer was “Yes!*”

*but give me a second to think about it first.

I’ve been watching Doctor Who since the new series started in 2005, so I’ve technically had quite a while to contemplate the question every Whovian asks themselves.  Doctor Who was originally created as a children’s show that evolved into a science fiction adventure story, but in spite of its silliness and bad CGI, there is a lot of darkness to its universe. Traveling with the Doctor is dangerous business. It’s exceedingly rare that an episode goes by without somebody dying, and not even the major characters are safe. In the show, we’ve seen acts of murder, torture, suicide, even genocide — the latter once committed, albeit unwillingly, by the Doctor himself.

The Doctor isn’t all sweetness and light, either. In spite of his appearance, he isn’t human. He’s an alien: very old, the last of his kind, the only survivor of a war that destroyed his people and a large chunk of time itself. The incarnation we’re starting with in class, the Ninth Doctor, is still suffering from crippling survivor’s guilt and a degree of PTSD. Left to his own devices, he gets lonely and terribly sad. This is why he needs companions — they give him a fresh set of eyes to see through, and somebody to talk to and keep him company for a while.

In spite of the darkness and pain under the surface of the show, there’s a lot of real beauty there too. Imagine: the chance to road-trip across the universe and go anywhere you’d like in time or space. You’d see worlds you couldn’t have imagined in your wildest dreams, meet aliens and work with new technology, and witness your own world’s past and future — or even alternate versions of your own reality. The universe is full of more wonders than we can possibly imagine, and this show is a good reminder that even outside the realm of fiction, the world is full of amazing things and people.

The reason that I’d hesitate to join the Doctor is the danger of never making it home. It’s not out of concern for my own well-being, per se. If it were, I wouldn’t be studying Wildlife Biology with plans to work in the Australian Outback somewhere down the line. There is a very real risk of injury in my career field. My sense of self-preservation takes a backseat, on occasion, to my fascination and love of the natural world. My friends joke about my exaggerated tendency to try absurd things in the name of science, but there’s a bit of truth to it. I am always one to leap at the chance for a new experience, and if I passed on the chance to travel the universe because I was afraid of the unknown, I’d never be able to forgive myself.

I think the real issue is that I wouldn’t want to leave my family and friends behind forever. Injury (or possibly even death) for me? No big shakes. (I could talk about faith here and why dying doesn’t freak me out as badly as it does to some, but it’s already past two in the morning and I’m just rambling now, so I’ll save that for some other time.) There’s a lot I’d still like to see and do here on earth, and if given the choice I’d certainly want to live long enough to do something with my life that would help other people and make the world a better place, even if it’s just in a small way. But I’ve got a younger sister and my parents and a roommate and a best friend, and I wouldn’t want to cause them stress and pain on my behalf. I want to be able to look out for them.

So if I were to hear the grating whirr of Tardis engines outside the HRC some afternoon, I might hesitate a moment. Send out a quick text my family and friends, tell them I’ ll be traveling for a while so I might be hard to reach, but not to worry. I’ll be fine, and maybe even bring them back some souvenirs. And then I’d sprint downstairs and out the door, with no regrets, to the adventure of a lifetime.

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Can’t believe I’m getting graded by running commentary on a British sci-fi show.

Philosophy and Doctor Who it is, then, but if I had the time I’d  try to take all of these colloquia. I’ll probably wind up dropping by most of the other groups at some point just to see what they’re up to.

And here’s Adam Savage from Mythbusters dancing to the Doctor Who theme being played by giant Tesla coils. Just because.

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Oh Colloquia.

I fully intend to lead a colloquium at some point, but I’m not sure that this semester will be the best time. There are already tons of neat ideas floating about (The Technology of James Bond? Doctor Who and Philosophy?) and I really want to participate in those — several of them, if I can fit them into my schedule.

Topics I’d Lead (Or Join, If Somebody Beats Me To The Punch):

+Tea (proper brewing techniques, its historical impact, and its roles in both ancient and modern cultures)

+ Science Fiction’s Influence on Real-World Technology (Star Trek’s tricorders are iPhones! Biometric identification in Gattaca is a reality! The military is working on its own Iron Man suit design to give soldiers more strength and endurance! Seriously, the possibilities are endless.)

+ Dystopian Fiction (examining books, movies, and other forms of media like V for Vendetta, the Fallout games, Mad Max, or 1984, and discussing both their impact on popular culture and if the concepts presented in the stories could ever come to pass in the real world.)

…Hmm. Now that I’ve written these out, they sound pretty appealing. I’ll sleep on it and see if I’ll want to lead one of these this semester after all.

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