The University cleared all of the waitlists for spring semester courses last Friday. Officials said in an email that this was a response to students not “accepting seats when they received offers to join those classes.” Administrators decided that by clearing out the waitlists, fewer students would need to wait for classes and the process would be more streamlined, but clearing the waitlists in their entirety and substituting it with a first-come, first-serve basis was the wrong decision.
During college, most students will end up on the waitlist for a class – regardless of if the course is required for their major or is just an elective. But the first-come, first-serve option takes away order that the waitlist system provides.
While the waitlist may appear to prioritize the needs of students who were put on the waitlist first, that is not necessarily true. Seniors and juniors have priority over underclassmen when registering for classes. If a seat opens up in a class, seniors on the list have priority over the freshmen who are also on the waitlist. Taking away that priority means seniors may not have the chance to knock out required classes or take interesting electives before they graduate. What seems like a solution was made without a warning and without respect to seniority or accessibility.
When a seat becomes open in a course, the first student on the waitlist receives an email informing them of the option to register for the class. However, if students choose not to take that course, it takes 24 hours before the next students on the waitlist can have the option to register. While this system is inefficient, there were other ways to improve this process than to clear all waitlists and disregard the needs of some students.
The new policy was emailed to students two days before course waitlists would be cleared. While this policy was listed on the registration website at the end of the fall semester, many students were likely unaware they would be removed from waitlists – as I was – and some also might not have been available at 2 p.m. on a Friday to re-register.
Regular class registration occurs at 7 a.m. each semester for a reason. Most students have class or work during the day and might not have the option of pulling out their phone or laptop to register for a course, which puts those students at an unfair disadvantage. Upperclassmen tend to have especially busy schedules that can be chock-full of work, class and internships. Not only must they find the time to register for a class, but they might lose the opportunity because of the first-come, first-serve basis.
During undergraduate course registration, students who have completed 90 credits or more – which tend to be seniors – get to register first. Seniors and juniors especially may need to take a class to meet their graduation requirements but with the first-come, first-serve basis, a freshman or a sophomore might get the open seat instead. With all of the stress that comes with graduation, seniors shouldn’t have to worry about getting into a required course at the last minute – but this change to how GW handles waitlists will force them to.
During my last registration in the fall, I was excited for the options that my final semester at GW had to offer. While I had two required classes that I had to take before graduation, I had three courses open for electives. Even though I am a senior, I ended up on the waitlist for two courses. Thankfully, over winter break a seat became open for the American Sign Language class I wanted to take, and I quickly accepted it.
However, if I no longer wished to take the sign language course, another student would have to wait another 24 hours before knowing that a seat was open. In the future, the University should offer the option for students to pass on the open seat so that the next student can be informed of the opening immediately – and not 24 hours later. This simple option would alleviate the problem and keep course registration accessible to all students.
I was disappointed with the solution that the University came to regarding something as important as class registration. For future registration periods, I hope administrators stop and consider the consequences of their actions and put students first.
Renee Pineda, a senior majoring in political science, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.
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