Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer

In contrast to many students and alumni, some professors reacted positively to Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun’s March 8 announcement regarding early registration for fall 2021 courses.

Chun’s email announcing changes to traditional registration elicited a range of reactions from the Yale community. While some students and alumni have criticized the move, which requires that students register for fall courses during the previous spring semester, all six professors interviewed by the News applauded the university’s decision, despite the added pressure that it may put on them to develop their syllabi earlier.

“To be sure, having to come up with syllabuses without a spring break in which to have time to do things right is a burden,” said professor of English Leslie Brisman. “But it’s a burden I’d gladly bear if it will produce something more like a real preregistration. We must get students thinking about and registering for the courses they are going to take so that real commitment and real learning can begin on day one of classes.” 

William Honeychurch, associate professor of anthropology and director of undergraduate studies for the major, echoed Brisman’s views, as well as Daniel Prober, professor of applied physics, physics and electrical engineering, and James Duncan, professor of biomedical engineering.

He specifically noted the disorganization and inconveniences that came with the previous system. For example, since enrollment in his most popular class, “Great Hoaxes and Fantasies in Archaeology,” can vary from 25 to several hundred individuals, course room sizes are difficult to predict. 

“The last time I taught that course with shopping (Spring 2020) I had a classroom for 20 and more than 100 shoppers who showed up on the first day of class,” Honeychurch wrote in an email to the News. “As a result, the first day of class and even subsequent class time was very unproductive — I would say wasted — and I spent the first 2 weeks confronted with deciding whether to get a new room or trying to figure out how to cut students and I do not enjoy cutting students. I want students who are genuinely interested in archaeology to be able to take my class. In the end most shoppers dropped out and so my take away impression as usual was: what’s the point of this?”

Like Brisman, Honeychurch suggested that the change would also allow an immediate entrance into a course, as opposed to the first day “advertising session” traditional to the shopping period system. He added that his syllabus preparations for this coming fall semester already look different from past years, with his first class containing more substantive material. 

Honeychurch described the new system of course registration as more organized while still maintaining the virtues of the former system, particularly in preserving the freedom for students to explore diverse courses and interests. 

He also added that this system, although new to Yale, has already been in place at other universities for many years. He experienced a similar preregistration system as an undergraduate at University of California, Berkeley. Professor of chemistry and Chair of the Department of Chemistry Kurt Zilm noted that other institutions often have registration even earlier than Yale’s new timeline. 

While the fast-tracked registration timeline could place greater pressure on professors finalizing syllabi, Honeychurch suggested that this is not a particularly grave concern. According to Honeychurch, most professors — even those teaching new courses — have prepared course content long in advance.

“Uploading adequate information a little early is not much of a problem,” he said.

While Zilm cast doubt on the level of advising and preregistration available to first years — who can begin preregistration prior to the start of the term and participate in the add/drop period — he noted that the potential for online engagement could help incoming students transition into the University. 

“I think we have learned in this pandemic there are a lot of activities we used to think absolutely had to be done in person that we now know can be pretty effectively done remotely using tools like Zoom and Canvas,” Zilm said. “This will make for much better learning outcomes for students in their first year by making sure they get into the courses that match up with their backgrounds and skill sets.”

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler emphasized that students will still have the ability to change courses around August and early September through an “add drop period,” when registration reopens.

The new system, she said, will allow students to have a “safety net” of courses, professors to know whether sections need to be added to their classes and administrators to know in advance whether it is necessary to hire more instructors.

As to the earlier deadlines, Gendler acknowledged that that can be “hard to adjust to.” But she said that, with time, the earlier timeline would become “tradition.” 

“The vision is that [early registration] is supposed to give students the same amount of freedom and the university more information,” Gendler added.

Under this new registration system, Yale Course Search will go live on April 1.

Madison Hahamy | madison.hahamy@yale.edu

Isabelle Qian | isabelle.qian@yale.edu