Tuesday, August 26, 2003

American Education, Soviet Style

Yesterday was the first day of class for fall, and thus a hellish nightmare as usual. I had literally twice as many students who wanted to register for one of my courses as there were available seats. This shortage is, of course, due in part to the California budget crisis -- but only in severity, as shortages are the norm here. In class, I pointed out the excess demand for seats in the class, and said that if the students remembered their microeconomics, they would know this meant the price was too low.

Every semester when I encounter this situation, I am tempted to auction the seats to the highest bidders (raising the price until the number of students willing to pay is equal to the number of seats available). But I’m pretty sure this would be considered an ethical violation, even if I dutifully handed the proceeds over to the college or rebated them lump-sum to all auction participants. Instead, since rationing by price is not allowed, I will have to ration the seats by means of personal whim and caprice.

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