Political science tests preregistration



For upperclassmen majoring in political science, shopping period is a different experience this semester thanks to a new preregistration program for seminars.

Over 200 junior and senior majors participated in the program, which the department is offering on an experimental basis. The new system, similar to preregistration programs in several other popular majors, is designed to reduce the stress and disorder of shopping period for political science majors. Previously, majors had to wait days, sometimes weeks, before knowing which seminars they would be admitted to.

David Cameron, the director of undergraduate studies for the Political Science Department, announced the new system Dec. 13 in an e-mail to all junior and senior political science majors. Majors received descriptions of all seminars and were invited to apply to as many as four. Professors reserved spaces for up to 10 students in each seminar.

The preregistration system, which was first proposed by the department’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee in early December, addresses a long-standing concern within the Political Science Department, Cameron said.

“I would say over the last couple of years, the single most frequently mentioned concern is the lack of preregistration when applying for seminars,” Cameron said. “It creates chaos, anxiety, uncertainty.”

Although he said it is too early to fully evaluate the success of the pilot program, Cameron said early indications have been encouraging. He estimated that 60 percent of the department’s upperclassmen majors preregistered for seminars this semester, with 80 percent of professors filling their maximum allotment of 10 reserved seats in individual classes.

Cameron said the biggest glitch in the system thus far seems to be that some students were admitted to multiple seminars, while others were not admitted to any of the courses to which they applied. He expects that the department will review these and other issues before trying to make the system permanent.

“The idea is that we’ll revise it and modify it, alter it however it needs to be altered, and then take it to the faculty this spring and try to formalize it as a permanent thing,” Cameron said.

Graduate School Dean Jon Butler — the former chair of the History Department, which offers a preregistration program for junior seminars — called preregistration “a good idea for most any department that faces competition for taking certain classes.”

“It helps everybody think ahead about what they want,” Butler said.

Political Science professor Jolyon Howorth, who teaches a popular seminar on NATO, said he thinks the new system represents a big improvement.

“It certainly seems to have eased the congestion and done away with a certain amount of the chaos,” Howorth said. “My sense is that it is a very necessary new development, and I imagine that once it becomes systematized it will be very universally accepted by both the faculty and the students.”

Political Science major Mia Arakaki ’05 said she declined to preregister because she did not decide to take a seminar in the department until after classes began this week. Still, she said the new system is a positive development.

“I think it definitely gives a little bit more relief in a certain way,” Arakaki said. “Sometimes you go into a seminar and there’s a lot of people there and you’re really worried about getting in, especially if you’re a political science major.”

Myles Campbell ’06, a history major, said he is interested in taking political science seminars in the future. While he said he understands the need to give majors certain preferences, he is upset that the preregistration system was only announced to those majors.

“I think that sort of sneaking in this pre-registration business without telling people who aren’t in the major seems a little unfair,” Campbell said.

David Kayvanfar ’06, another political science major, had mixed reactions to the system.

“My initial reaction to it was negative because it seems to make it more competitive,” Kayvanfar said. “But when I think about it in more detail, I think that it may be easier if everyone’s on the same page and understands what it takes to get into these seminars.”

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