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Fairness, efficiency of registration questioned

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Notre Dame students will begin assembling their spring schedules today through an online course registration process – formerly called “DART-ing” – that has prompted some Domers to question its efficiency and fairness.The current procedure for scheduling second semester classes is called IrishLink web registration. However many students and faculty members still refer to the process in terms of its archaic acronym, DART, or Direct Access Registration by Telephone, even though this particular method of scheduling was terminated several years ago.”We asked academic departments and colleges to stop using the term ‘DART,’ but old habits die hard,” Notre Dame Registrar Harold Pace said. In web registration, each student enrolled in the University is assigned a unique PIN number, which will allow him or her to enter the IrishLink database during a randomly allocated time slot within his or her appropriate level. Levels are for the most part class-specific in that they are assigned based on the number of semesters and credit hours completed by the student.Members of the first level – comprised of seniors and 3rd year law and graduate business students – choose their courses earliest in the registration process. Juniors and 2nd year law and graduate business students form the second level, sophomores are included in the third level and freshmen are designated to the fourth and final level. Although the specification of levels based on seniority is widely accepted as fair, the arbitrary assignment of registration times within each level has caused some students to speculate as to whether there is a way to simplify the scheduling process.Lauren Messina, a junior majoring in film, television and theatre, believes that a student’s major should affect his or her designated time slot.”Those who have majors – such as engineering or math – that are completely dependent upon major classes should have later times,” Messina said. “People with majors like English or American studies, where the classes are mostly dependent on a first-come, first-serve basis should have the earlier times.”But Messina believes major should not be the only factor. She would like to see past academic records have some bearing on the process.”The higher the GPA, the later the time should be because if you have an earlier time, you will take the easier classes,” Messina said. “People with a higher GPA don’t need [the earlier time] as much as people with a lower GPA.”Sophomore management information systems major Walker Adams disagreed with Messina, citing that in giving students with lower GPAs preferential treatment, the University would be reinforcing the principle that students with lower grades should do less work in an easier class simply to raise their GPA.”My GPA is sub-par in terms of how I would like it to be, but I’m not going to take buffer classes to raise it,” Adams said. “I’m going to take classes which are essential to my major and classes which interest me.”Adams supports the current class registration method and believes the process of randomly assigning time slots within each level is intrinsically fair. Assigning time slots at random is the most efficient approach, he said.Freshman Magda Karol, a Russian and East European studies major, agrees the random allocation of time slots is the most effective method of class registration. “Giving out time slots randomly is a good thing because special preferences aren’t given to any particular individual,” Karol said.According to Karol, the system is efficient the majority of the time and only fails when late times are repeatedly given to the same student over the course of many semesters. The University has accounted for this apparent setback, however. During the last two years, students who have received a fourth consecutive second-day appointment have had their appointment automatically changed to a first-day appointment, Pace said. Other steps to prevent problems of this sort have also been taken.”A request has been made to alternate the first-day and second-day appointments for undergraduates from semester to semester,” Pace said. “We are testing the feasibility of this proposal, and if feasible it could be implemented in the future.”The Office of the Registrar is continuously considering alternative methods and options to make class registration easier and more efficient, said Pace. “I am always open to ideas and formal proposals from the student leadership – even individual students – concerning ways to improve the registration process,” Pace said.Registration for the summer and fall 2005 semesters will involve brand new software recently purchased by the University. Students, advisors and faculty will start receiving information about the forthcoming system in January.