Tekriwal: Class Registration Dilemmas

Tanisha Tekriwal, Assistant Opinion Editor

Class Registration on CAESAR

I can’t think of a single person I know who isn’t stressed out come registration time. And it isn’t just because college students are always worried about their potential academic careers — it is also because the current system of class registration is flawed.

The arbitrary registration slots stand out in this respect. I know the arguments for the random algorithm — impartiality, fairness, etc. However, random isn’t the same as fair. My roommate had the last slots three quarters in a row. So for certain classes, the problem wasn’t even that some classes were only offered only once a year — the problem was that they were offered every quarter, and she missed them every quarter. I hate to rule against myself (I had relatively good slots all three quarters) but I can’t help it. Northwestern would benefit from the principle of equitability by ensuring that someone who has had a bad quarter — or worse, two bad quarters — doesn’t have a third.

A second problem is adding seats once a class is filled. There is something amazing about a class you really wanted opening up more seats after filling up at first. Counterintuitively, hoping desperately that they would open up and then being disappointed when they don’t is sad. Showing the true capacity of a class from the very beginning helps students set realistic expectations. It also helps avoid deciding on a completely different, alternate schedule because you didn’t get that one class, only to realise they opened more seats, and you have missed it twice.

As for class size, I have realised that many are completely off. We must work to institute a system other than conjecture and past record to determine how big class should be for the coming quarter. Sending out a survey every quarter for every class isn’t feasible, but the disparity between demand and supply is too stark to not take any steps. Take, for example, Reading and Writing Poetry. This is a class that potential Creative Writing majors are required to take in order to start their writing sequence.

However, there are not nearly enough sections for this seminar-style class that holds only 15 people at once. There are also non-majors who might just want to try something new. Alternatives for gauging interest in a class might not be better than the current establishment, but they can’t be worse.

So many students, especially those who are undeclared, wish to try out certain fields and are deterred by the fact that they can get into none of the classes. This seriously disadvantages those who might not already have their academic careers charted out for themselves. Students should not be compelled to declare a major or minor before they are ready or one they are not even particularly interested in just to get into a particularly niche or small class.

There are so many levels on which students have to fight tooth and nail to get a class: first make sure you have declared a major/minor in time for pre-registration, hope for a good registration time, and then as last resort, just pray no one else wants to be in the classes you want. My friend who had both pre-registration for a minor in Classics and an 8:30 am slot for general registration couldn’t get into Classics 250.

I’m not writing this to whine about a class I didn’t get. I know these problems might even be specific to first-years, but there are still a lot of unhappy people. And I know that someone or the other will always be dissatisfied and that no decision can please everyone, but why keep one that pleases no one?

Tanisha Tekriwal is a Weinberg Freshman. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.