Lawrentians in Contention: Registration and anarchy

By now, we’ve all experienced how the first few first days of classes go each term. As we finally choose our classes, professors call names off enrollment lists and drop students until the lists become Swiss cheese. For large classes, placement on a waitlist comes with higher stakes and the process feels more akin to playing musical chairs than directing your education. Clearly, class enrollment has a few quirks.

The fix is simple: Don’t end registration periods for upcoming terms and keep everything else the same. If students want to add or drop any class for a future term and have talked it over with their academic advisors, they should be able to do so at any time. Say “so long” to strange waitlists with no one registered and mid-class brawls over syllabi in classes where five students registered and twenty showed up.

This is so obvious that I can’t understand why the University hasn’t done it yet. What is the worry? If students can register anytime they want for upcoming terms, they will do so. That can only be a good thing. At a liberal arts institute, if a class interests a student, they should be rewarded for their inquisitive nature. The university shouldn’t attempt to hold them back. There are plenty of other reasons to implement this change as well.

While some Lawrentians are fabulous long-term planners who can map out their year like chess players, many students—by choice or through no fault of their own—need to make decisions about their upcoming classes in a much shorter time frame.

The Lawrence University class schedule isn’t some unchanging tablet; it’s constantly updated as professors come and go from campus and as new classes are incorporated. Sometimes life intervenes for students and professors and classes have to be dropped or changed. Sometimes, students just declare their majors.

Furthermore, some professors have to make special arrangements for the students in their classes and then let students know about those changes. The primary way they do that before classes start is through the registered list, but when a student cannot register in time, the professor and the student are both harmed by the student’s inability to register. Truly, there is no reason not to change it.

However, I can see why Lawrence might have limited the registration process once upon a time. When everything was processed with paper, the threat of capricious students would have been a logical reason to limit registration time periods. If students could have changed their minds constantly regarding future terms’ classes, a lot of paper would have been wasted. As an environmentally conscious institution, Lawrence University may have tried to avoid such frivolous waste. But now, when all it only takes a few clicks to add or drop a course, I see no reason for such a limitation.

Some final questions: How does the University even go about deciding when to end and begin some of these registration periods anyway? Why are halfway points in the term special? Is there some secret lunar cycle we’re trying to adhere to? Do students become wiser at these points in the term as they gaze into the sky? Because, if so, I’d love to hear about it. Maybe I can register for a course about it.