Under the current course registration system on ROSI, once waitlists end we enter a free-for-all-period where getting into a course is contingent on happening to log in immediately after someone else has dropped the class.
This system is horribly detrimental to students: not only does it induce stress, but it also encourages dishonesty in that the easiest way into a class at this point is to buy a spot.
This system is great for course administrators, who have seven days to play with the system — letting students in who’ve asked nicely and kicking out those who don’t have the prerequisites.
Making life easier for the university’s registrars, however, should not be the primary goal of our course registration system.
In the long term, there are a variety of excellent models we could emulate, such as Harvard and Yale’s practice of letting undergraduates shop for courses. Even in the short term, the benefits of getting rid of the free-for-all period far outweigh the costs.
The unfortunate side-effect of the free-for-all period is the sale of spots in class. U of T has insisted that selling places in courses is limited and has been practiced for years. The university also maintains that, technically, it’s not an academic offence to purchase a spot in a course.
The reality is that selling space is a clandestine activity that is generally set up through private communication — therefore the university cannot know how often it takes place. The only reason selling your spot in a course is not an academic offense is because if the university prohibited it, they’d be under some obligation to try and stop it.
U of T likes to deal with students in the abstract, en masse. Even if selling spots is a limited practice, it’s a limited practice with tangible human consequences. This year, a friend accepted a $200 offer to sell his spot in a class. He wanted the class, but he didn’t need it — and $200 goes a long way for a struggling student.
Last year, one of my friends was going to pay $500 to get into a class, and only didn’t because he happened to randomly check when a spot became available. $500 may seem like a lot, but when you’re paying $35,000 a year in international student fees and you need the course to graduate, it’s worth it.
U of T has created a system where the unscrupulous prey on the desperate twice a year and the administration stick their fingers in their ears and pretend like they don’t know what’s going on.
Consider the response I received when I asked Sinisa Markovic, assistant university registrar, as a perfect example of how the university doesn’t take these issues seriously.
In Markovic’s emailed reply, he wrote: “We are working diligently to ensure that a solution does not introduce new unintended problems, and that any solution is an effective and responsible use of resources.” That’s almost word for word the same pablum university registrar Richard Levin offered The Varsity back in August.
Markovic did offer one piece of information that was genuinely new — he explained that the university intends to introduce a technical solution to discourage the sale of course spots in time for fall 2015 registration.
Getting rid of the free-for-all period would be easy. And while there are plenty of other things that could be improved — allowing students access to registration as observers before their start times, enabling them to see if classes have filled up, and enforcing fulfillment of the Dean’s Promise, just to name a few — there is no logical reason — and certainly no moral reason — not to get rid of the free-for-all period right away.
Zane Schwartz is a fourth-year history student who contributes to The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s. He was The Varsity’s news editor last year. His column appears bi-weekly.
Correction: The final paragraph of this article has been edited for clarity at the author’s request.
Correction: An earlier version of this article suggested that Sinisa Markovic, assistant university registrar, was a woman. Mr. Markovic is male.