A new History Department policy requiring students to register online for discussion sections is drawing the ire of some students, who say it will complicate course selection while eliminating their ability to shop for sections.
History chairman Jon Butler and Registrar Barry S. Kane said the program will ease the chaos of shopping period, streamline section assignments, and help students plan their schedules around sections. But students feared that some would abuse the system by registering for more sections than they will take, a concern that Butler and Kane dismissed.
The pilot project requires students to select a section time when they add a history lecture course to their schedule worksheet in the Online Course Selection application. When section enrollment reaches the 18-student limit, students will no longer be able to register for that section, unless someone vacates a spot.
“In doing this we are simply eliminating all the hand section sign-up which has become chaotic in the past 3 to 4 years,” Butler said. “There is nothing different about this section registration except that it’s being done way up front.”
Butler said students will know section times during shopping period, rather than several weeks into the semester.
“Most universities don’t experience this kind of constant moving of furniture around just to get people registered,” Butler said. “So much time in the lecture has to be spent adjudicating sections.”
But when Kane, who is leaving for Harvard University in October, introduced the system to the freshman counselors last week, it provoked a “fiery” discussion, Trumbull freshman counselor Nick Maier ’04 said.
“It favors people who worksheet as many classes as possible,” Maier said, referring to the course selection worksheet on the online registration system.
Maier said he worried that freshmen will be blocked out of sections by upperclassmen who held sections because their schedules are due later.
“It doesn’t accurately represent the availability of sections,” Maier said.
Frank Snowden, director of undergraduate studies in history, said professors can add sections if the offered choices fill up.
“It doesn’t remove the flexibility to add sections,” Snowden said.
But Cyd Cipolla ’04, a Trumbull freshman counselor, said professors will not be able to see how many students are still interested because the program does not have a waitlist function. She said students might sign up for sections in classes they do not take and be less motivated to attend classes during shopping period, since they do not need to sign up for sections in person.
Butler said he did not think that students would sign up for sections and lock them up as insurance.
“We’re making an assumption that students are reasonable and are not going to reserve a spot, they’re going to shop,” Butler said.
History major Julia Strasser ’05 said she thought the new system eliminated part of shopping period because students could no longer go to sections and shop for a teaching assistant.
Kate Bowers ’05, a history major, said professors would not be able to gauge the likely of enrollment of students who have signed up for sections.
“It’s antithetical to the nature of shopping period,” Bowers said.
But Kane said the old system of section sign ups was labor-intensive for professors. He said the pilot program was developed for the History Department but might be replicated next semester if it proves successful. The English Department has expressed interest in the program, he said.
“If everything goes well and the problems are not insurmountable then we would probably initiate it for all departments in the spring,” Kane said.