Bradley Dlatt: Registration frustration

For many GW students, these past few weeks have included meeting with advisers and spending hours scouring the schedule of classes to fulfill the seemingly endless GCR requirements. All this while still aiming for that three-day weekend – not to mention the endless searching on Rate My Professor for ‘the easy guy.’ After the stress of planning yet another semester of our college career, thousands of students pulled themselves out of bed and logged on to GW’s online registration system, anxiously waiting for 7:00 a.m. to strike, hoping to get those precious few remaining slots in the courses they need. Finally, at 7:00 a.m., that same, already stressed out, group of students clicked on the icon to add classes, and many found: “HTTP/1.1 Service Unavailable.”

Now freaking out, these students tried again and again for the next 10 minutes, all the while convinced they would be stuck with the worst professors and the most unnecessary classes, until they were finally able to enter the CRNs, click enter and pray. Unfortunately, this situation has been all too common during the past week, due to what ISS Marketing and Communications Manager Rachel Blevins described as a “service outage,” which kept some students from being able to log on to GWeb during peak times.

Of the many frustrations felt by GW students, none is more universal then the malice directed toward registration. GWeb came into being during the fall of 1999 – replacing a pitifully outdated phone registration system – but basic issues, like the lack of a server strong enough to handle the surge of online traffic at 7:00 a.m., continue to plague the process. As it stands, having a system that depends purely on credits continues to frustrate underclassmen as some older students look to bolster their GPA with easier, introductory level courses underclassmen actually need to take. We as a community need to be cognizant that there are no better alternatives than the current method for registration. Instead, we should focus our collective frustrations on trying to improve the technology and spread awareness on how the registration system can be used to our advantage.

Many disenchanted students want to scrap GWeb altogether and find a better way to register for classes. Suggested ideas include registration being completed through an adviser or through a paper, in person, registration system. But these alternatives would breed incredibly inefficient registration lines and stretch an already thin and often-criticized advising program. The disappointing reality is that online registration is still the best way to ensure a fair and efficient registration process. Still, the University needs to do more in order to fix the bugs in the system. University Registrar Elizabeth Amundson has said GW will be installing new hardware on the servers running GWeb this coming spring, which would ideally ensure that students will not have to worry about slow connections or GWeb locking them out as they fight to get into courses.

The biggest problem with the registration system is the need to improve fair access to courses. The University is right to reward seniority by allowing those with more credits to register first. But to create a more fair and effective process, the school should consider assigning registration dates based on college and major – putting related majors on the same day. This plan has the potential to provide more equal access to courses by putting students in the same major on a level playing field, therefore creating a more fair experience for all students.

We as students can only hope that someone drops from a closed class or that we are lucky enough to find the pot of gold before someone else. Otherwise, we are forced to wait months until the semester begins and hope the professor is kind enough to sign the forms to enroll in a particular course. This problem would be easily fixed by equipping the new GWeb hardware with the technology to automatically create an online waitlist for a course as soon as it closes, including automatically putting students on the waitlist as soon as they enter the CRN. This allows GWeb to fill the spots of those who drop from a course immediately, thus avoiding the need to play guessing games or hope that a department waitlist is actually effective – which it often is not.

While GWeb is more effective than other options, these few systematic glitches and failures have ultimately caused many students to scream out in anger during the past week. We can certainly afford to further boost the GWeb server during peak registration times, find a more equitable way for students to register and program effective waitlist technology into GWeb. If GW can accomplish these easy, reachable goals, then registration frustration will become a figment of the past.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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