A new waitlist system will make pre-registration a little smoother this year if all goes according to plan. The Registrar’s Office and Whitman College Technology Services have been working together for nine months to make improvements so that students can more easily get the classes they want.
Before fall 2010 pre-registration, the Registrar moved from managing waitlists with a first-come, first-served electronic system to requiring faculty to manage their own waitlists. This change enabled faculty members to have more say in choosing who gets in to their classes. They could prioritize students who needed the class for their major, for example. However, this system also relied on a complicated chain of communication between the faculty, students and the Registrar that sometimes made registration stressful.
Fortunately, WCTS have developed a system for fall 2011 pre-registration to combat these problems. In this new system, when a faculty member gives a student consent for a course via QUACK, the system automatically sends a student and the Registrar an e-mail. In this e-mail is a link to the Registrar. If the student wants to add the course, they must simply follow that link to make a request with the Registrar. They will receive a confirmation e-mail when the Registrar has added the course.
Registrar Ron Urban feels that this system is an important step in improving registration.
“The process should eliminate many of the communication difficulties associated with our previous procedures and make the process of enrolling in closed classes less of a tortured experience for students,” he said.
Michael Quiner, director of administrative technology, agrees.
“It will make communication between faculty members, students and the Registrar much easier,” Quiner said.
He is especially supportive of this system because it allows the faculty to be selective.
“They have a good sense of the type of student and the number of students they want to add to their classes,” he said.
Quiner said this is the first of many changes, and mentioned several changes that technology services would like to implement in the future. Some examples include a link that would automatically send a course request e-mail to faculty members and a place on the web site where faculty members can explain to students why they granted consent or not.
Course compression, the phenomenon of too many classes occurring at the same time, has also been a major registration complaint recently. Timothy Kaufman-Osborn, provost and dean of faculty, has written a document addressing course compression that can be found on The Pioneer’s web site.
In part of this document, he discussed how the Registrar and elected leaders of the faculty met to look at course distribution for the next school year.
In the communication he writes: “In conducting this review, we attended not simply to the distribution of courses, but also to the number of available enrollment seats across semesters and among different time slots during each semester.”
“Following this analysis, in instances where we found cause for concern, we returned to departments in order to indicate that courses needed to be shifted from one semester to another; that courses needed to be better balanced at different levels; that courses needed to be better distributed among time slots in order to reduce the phenomenon of ‘course compression.'”
Kaufman-Osborn also urged students not to be discouraged if they don’t get all the courses they want at pre-registration.
“The list of course offerings made available at the time of pre-registration is, of necessity, a partial list. If students do not get access to all of the courses they wish to take during pre-registration, it is crucial that next fall they return to the list of courses to see what additional opportunities have opened up,” he said.
Kaufman-Osborn also reminded students to remember that movement during the first week of classes could also open up class spots.
Overall, the stress level among students seems to have decreased since previous pre-registration periods.
Junior Charles Weems, a politics major, attributes this lack of concern to his senior standing.
“Since I’ll be a senior next year, I’m not really worried about getting the courses I want or getting off waitlists. I missed the worst of the course compression while I was abroad,” he said.
First-year Ben Ishibashi had a previous stressful experience with waitlisting. An introductory environmental studies class important to his major was closed, so he e-mailed the professor and made it on the waitlist. After attending the first day of class, he got a spot — then a few hours later, he lost the spot to a student who had been sick and unable to attend class. Fortunately, the professor e-mailed him when another student dropped, and he was able to get the class.
He stressed the importance of communication and is glad to hear that the new system will improve it.
“The environmental studies professors have been good about communication. I think it’s because they know how competitive their courses are,” Ishibashi said. “Communication was the key in my situation. If the professor hadn’t emailed me, I wouldn’t have gotten that class.”
He also feels that allowing professors to manage their own waitlists is a smart idea.
“Professors understand student appeals and can make sure the people who get in are the ones that should.”
First-year Jenny Dardis agrees.
“The professor can tell who is really enthusiastic about his or her class, and who would benefit most from it. In my experience, professors are pretty fair, so I think this is a good way to help everyone get the most that they can out of the classes they take,” she said.