A fairer registration system will make students’ courses count

Courtesy of Molly Davis/The Occidental
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It’s registration season here at Oxy, and needless to say, stress levels are high. First years are fresh into college life, just looking to fill some core requirements and hopefully find their major. Sophomores are fighting for their hard-earned intro or advanced-level major classes. Juniors are attempting to home in on their major requirements and 300-level classes, and seniors just want to graduate. This all creates a large pool of jumbled schedules and students fighting to be the first on the registration tab. Without improved scheduling procedures, students are left wondering if they will be able to choose their preferred classes. There is no clear organization to the system — seniors who are trying to graduate are not prioritized over first years, and seemingly arbitrary registration times leave students’ future classes largely up to luck.

Once students meet with their advisors during advising week, they receive a registration time and PIN. While we may not know how the registrar assigns registration times, students have no input in those decisions. From our perspective, the times appear totally random. This, in turn, affects which classes they have the ability to choose from. Students with an earlier registration time have an advantage over those with a later registration time. Once a class is full, students have to put themselves on the waitlist and make a case for why they deserve an extra spot in the class. This can be extremely stressful for upperclassmen in particular, who have a clear idea of what classes they need to take in order to graduate — but even first years struggle to register for their preferred Cultural Studies Program (CSP) class and fulfill their core requirements.

During registration, students are not prioritized by need, but rather have to hope the odds are in their favor when they are randomly assigned registration times. It would be logical to register in order of seniority because juniors and seniors know exactly what classes they need for their majors and have less time and room to explore classes. But this isn’t actually the case — to my knowledge, sophomores registered first this year, followed by juniors, seniors and first years.

As a first year, I dealt with this issue personally when registering for my first round of classes. I came to Oxy knowing I wanted to study journalism and media, and I had a clear idea of which classes would get me there. Oxy has no distinct journalism department, but I was excited to dabble in Media Arts and Culture (MAC) and Writing and Rhetoric (WRD) classes. Unfortunately, I was given the last registration time; spots in my chosen classes filled up immediately, and I had to settle for my third backup choices. I ended up taking two classes on education, a math class and a science-based CSP, none of which were quite what I was looking for.

Part of the problem is that I was really interested in taking MAC 143, which filled up almost immediately after registration started. MAC classes are notoriously hard to get into at Oxy. Many junior and senior MAC majors have to fight for spots in their chosen classes so that they can fulfill their major requirements. Because of the high demand, some of these classes are offered only to majors, and students who have already declared their majors are prioritized on waitlists. This means that first years like myself would practically have to declare the second we arrive on campus in order to take classes in high-demand departments like MAC. Many of us do not have the experience or the resources to declare upon arriving at college, leaving us at a disadvantage to already-declared majors. Since I couldn’t take a class in the MAC department, I lost the chance to explore a possible major. I was left waiting until the spring semester to begin exploring potential majors — and time is ticking, because MAC majors need to start intro classes by their sophomore year in order to graduate on time.

We’re still lucky to be able to explore classes at a strong liberal arts institution like Occidental. Every class is unique, and often times students find themselves enjoying a class they never thought they would have. The perk of having a liberal arts institution with a core program is that it forces students outside of their comfort zones, encouraging them to consider new paths for their educations and even their careers. But while our current registration system pushes students to try new things, it still causes stress, especially for those who want to study abroad, double-major or even just graduate on time.

Registration would become much easier if the Registrar’s Office opened class seats gradually so that students with later registration times would still have seats available to them. Professors could also offer multiple sections of classes in especially popular departments like MAC. We pay quite a bit of tuition to study at Oxy, and all we ask for is a more flexible registration schedule. While I absolutely love the idea of trying different things, students should be able to do so on their own terms — not because they are taking filler electives due to everything else being full.

Haley Jones is an undeclared first year. She can be reached at jonesh@oxy.edu.