Registrar misassigns students to winter classes

by Priya Ramaiah | 11/18/13 3:20pm

Some students were left scrambling to register for classes after they found out they had been dropped from the ones in which they had originally been enrolled. The registrar, Meredith Braz, sent an email on Nov. 13 informing some students that had been mistakenly placed in various classes as a result of a computer system error that failed to account for upperclassmen’s priority in course registration.

Classes across departments were affected by the error.

Victoria Pan ’16, who was dropped from Global Environmental Politics, said that while the experience was stressful, the need to give priority to upperclassmen is reasonable.

“I understand why they had to drop people because the class only has 15 spots,” said Pan. “I would be upset if I was an upperclassman and wasn’t able to get that class for my major, so I think they handled it as best as they could.”

Dartmouth’s reputation as a national leader in undergraduate education, including its number one ranking for undergraduate teaching by U.S. News and World Report, is owed in part to small class sizes. But smaller classes may make it more challenging to enroll.

Students interviewed were disappointed to learn they that they were dropped from a class after add-drop period opened on the morning of November 13, leaving them to pick from a much smaller selection of courses than if they been informed of the error earlier.

“It was a little frustrating because all the classes I wanted to take as backups had already filled up,” said Patricia Bai ’17, who was dropped from a biology class.

The add-drop period was not extended to accommodate the blunder.

Pranav Vangala ’17, who was dropped from a history class that is not offered regularly, said it has made him unsure about the reliability of course registration.

“The registrar should have liaised with the professor and found a way to accommodate the freshmen, rather than simply dropping them from the class,” he said.

For students with more regimented course plans, such as those pursuing the pre-medical track, being removed from classes they had been confirmed as registered in without warning was especially nerve-wracking.

“At first I didn’t know what I would do with not being able to take a pre-med class that’s only offered in the winter,” said Devika Dholakia ’17, who was dropped from a pre-med requirement. “Luckily I replaced it with Biology 15, so it worked out for me.”

Geography department chair Susanne Freidberg said overenrollment has been a growing problem in her department for the past several years.

“I think this is a problem across the social sciences,” Freidberg said. “Most of our classes are overenrolled, especially core courses for the international studies minor.”

Enrollments have also been in increasing in the computer science department, chair Thomas Cormen said, since only three courses in the department have enrollment caps.

“We are seeing some very high enrollments, which are straining our resources,” Cormen said in an email.

He said he considers the increase a good problem to have.

“We are thrilled that students are finding computer science so interesting, important, and applicable to a wide range of studies,” he said.

Braz did not respond to requests for comment by press time.