UCSD Biology Debuts Discussion Sections with 300 Students


Written by: James Woolley

“Let’s get that kiss cam goin’!” exclaimed one student.
Photo by Sharon Roth

The Epstein Family Amphitheater hosted the Department of Biological Sciences’ Shame ’n’ Sack Showdown this past Tuesday, during which all undergraduate Biological Sciences TAs were publicly shamed for being protected by union rules mandating compensation for their work, and were then fired one by one. The event reportedly lasted nine hours and could be heard from as far as Seventh College. In a statement given to the crowd, Biological Sciences spokesperson Dumpy Elegans had this to say: “Our agreement with the UAW union prevents us from generously paying undergraduate TAs in experience, and they have contractually negotiated that we instead compensate workers with money for their labor. This outrageous request has left us with no other option than to relieve each and every undergraduate TA of their position, and to make sure that the public is well aware of what happens when they make unreasonable demands of the University of California.”

The event was personally funded by Chancellor Khosla, who stated, “Thanks to the money I save from not having to pay rent at the Chancellor’s Mansion and the very reasonable $500,000 raise granted to me by the Regents in late April, I have the disposable income to host fun events like the Shame ’n’ Sack for our incredibly hardworking students.”

The event included a full-sized carnival as well as regionally famous Radiohead kazoo cover band Radioforehead, which played Radiohead’s entire discography over the course of the day. When asked about the choice of entertainment, Elegans said, “There’s nothing more painful than listening to the swell of kazoos during the chorus of ‘Fake Plastic Trees.’ If the students won’t build character by working for free, we’ll force it onto them.” Volunteers from the Department of Biological Sciences were invited onstage to shame the students for anything from “wanting money for working” to “giving up the chance to develop grit through uncompensated labor.”

The Department of Biological Sciences’ choice to “clear bloat from the budget” has brought with it other changes that the department promises will “excite and invigorate the nurturing learning environment we have carefully fostered here at UCSD.” Included in these changes is the decision to radically change the way that discussion sections are run for biology classes. Not only have all discussion sections been moved online, each section of 300 students will be led by just one graduate instructional assistant.

Elegans explained on behalf of the department, “Our old discussion sections allowed students to make friends and find community easier than in our big lecture halls. We feel that making friends takes away from the unique UCSD experience, and that our new discussion format will help students learn coping mechanisms to manage their future failures.”

This decision has been met with overwhelmingly negative reception, as many students have pointed out that the size of lectures is already a problem that shouldn’t be carried over into discussion sections. “I haven’t learned anything from my professors in my three years at UCSD,” exclaimed student Dross Ophelia. “Real learning happens when desperate students show up crying at TA office hours. I can’t be competing with 300 other sobbing losers.”

When asked about the backlash, Elegans reassured students. “Not to worry, this solution is only temporary. Once they’ve all been weaned off of human contact, we will move forward with Phase 3, and use ChatGPT to lead our online discussion sections rather than the IAs.”

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