Newsletter of the Association of Library and Information Science Students (ALISS)





November 2003

Vol VII Issue V

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New Registration Procedures are Worrisome for Many MLIS Students

By Katy Shaw
By now, most returning MLIS students have probably noticed that something is different about registration this year—there are no longer any entry codes. In previous years, the beginning of Period I registration went largely unnoticed by MLIS students because by this time they already had entry codes guaranteeing them spots in the classes they planned to take. Not so this year. November 7 at 6:00 AM marked the beginning of Period I registration for winter quarter, and for the first time MLIS students found themselves up at the crack of dawn like the rest of the students at the UW to register for their favorite classes.

At first glance, the demise of the entry code system does not seem like a change that will impact many iSchool students. Most students found the entry code system confusing to begin with anyway—you still had to register for classes after you got entry codes for them. Without the entry code system, registration is now a simple one-step process. Or is it?

For tuition-exempt students and for MLIS students who want to take classes outside of their respective programs, registration will not be so simple. Tuition-exempt students, who have to wait until the third day of classes to register, are worried that without the entry code system classes will fill up before they get a chance to register.

Students who had planned to take classes in other programs are also worried. Another new registration policy mandates that students will only be allowed to take core classes in their respective programs only. This means that evening students will no longer have the option of taking core classes in the day, and vice versa. The new policy also makes it more difficult for day students to sign up for electives in other programs. Day students wishing to register for evening or distance classes will now have wait until the first day of the class to be given entry codes so that they can register for the class—if there is still room.

John Mobley, a tuition-exempt student in the evening program, is worried that he will have a harder time getting into the classes he needs to graduate. He is also concerned that some of the details about who has priority for what classes is unclear – especially when it comes to tuition exempt students. “It’s not real clear what the priority of registration is,” he said. “Like for example a day student in an evening class – will they register before me?”

Classes that don’t meet until Fridays and Saturdays present their own set of unique challenges. Students wanting to take cross-program classes that start on Fridays and Saturdays won’t know until the end of the week whether or not they will be able to get into those classes. Those students may have to sign up for additional classes that they have no intention of taking as a backup. “I’ll just basically have to go to classes that I’m planning on dropping in the hopes that I can get the class I really want,” says John, who is planning on taking an evening class next quarter that only meets on Saturdays.

Perhaps the biggest source of frustration for John is that this is the third major change that the MLIS program has undergone in the last year. As a tuition-exempt student in the evening program, he has felt the impact of all of those changes. In the fall of 2002, the iSchool announced that the evening program was going to become self-sustaining. This meant that the program was no longer supported with funding from the state, and that students had to register for their classes through the University of Washington’s Educational Outreach Office. In the spring of 2003, the iSchool decided to end the evening program altogether and increase enrollment in the distance program. Now, in the fall of 2003, the entry code system has been discontinued. “Sometimes I don’t know that it’s necessarily appreciated that people are only here for two years,” says Mobley. “I’m sure in two years from now nobody’s going to be concerned about any of this… [but for] the people who are here now – it just makes the experience so chaotic.”

According to Kate McDill, the Assistant to the Associate Dean for Academics and a MLIS graduate, a number of factors affected the decision create the new registration procedures. The primary reason centered on the fact that the entry code system needed to be redesigned. The entry code system was created at a time when the MLIS programs were much simpler to administer. The only person who knew how to deal with the intricacies of the system was the undergraduate student who designed it – who is now graduating. Additionally, the entry code system was based on a hardware program that has since been replaced. The system either needed to be replaced or discontinued.

In the end, the decision boiled down to money. “The state budget problem and the fact that they’ve cut budgets to the University of Washington has finally hit the Information school,” asserts McDill. “We had to look at – financially – what did we get from the entry code system, why did we have it, what would it cost us to replace it – and we looked at all of those decisions and decided that we couldn’t justify more money.”

Washington state law regarding tuition-exempt students was also a factor in the iSchool’s decision to cease using the entry code system. “One of the reasons we had the entry code system was to give all our students equal access to classes – including the state tuition exempt students,” says Kate. “In doing so, we were essentially breaking state law, because [for] the tuition-exempt students, their enrollment in classes is specifically stated to be on a space-available basis.”

The discontinuation of the evening program also played a role in some of the new registration policies. Evening students will be allowed to register for day and distance electives during Period II – well ahead of the first day of classes – whereas day students will have to wait until Period III to register for evening or distance electives. “As part of that transition [from the evening program to the distance program] we did promise that the evening students would have preference for day electives,” says McDill, “and in order to keep the parity [between the programs] we chose to keep the core courses that students have to take in their own program.”

Despite all of the changes to the registration process, McDill doesn’t think that many students will be unable to get into the classes that they want. “There’s only been a few courses that have closed within program quickly” she said. “The truth is, usually by the second or third day of class seats are open again. Even 522, which had a huge wait list, ended up with empty spaces in class this quarter.”

Although John Mobley is frustrated by the new registration procedures, he understands why they were implemented. “I don’t know that I necessarily blame the iSchool for the situation… I think they have to do what they have to do to have some sort of an enrollment plan, so I don’t necessarily fault them for the tough calls that they’ve had to make,” he said. “What they’re doing now is what everyone else has always done on campus… I’m just a little bit concerned about the chaos that could happen – maybe it won’t.”

For more information about MLIS registration procedures and policies, consult the Student Handbook. Handouts about the new registration procedures are also available in the students services office on the table next to the door.