As Add/Drop/Swap ended yesterday night, students of the Emory College of Arts and Sciences completed yet another cycle in the difficult process of building their academic schedules. Classes were traded, professors were bombarded with overload requests and many underclassmen were left unhappy. Students often find themselves in unexpected courses thanks to vaguely or poorly worded course descriptions, a lack of digitally published syllabi — even for recurring courses — and an inability to effectively evaluate courses that fall on Mondays and Wednesdays because of semester scheduling traditions and holidays.
We at the Wheel believe that the University can better serve its students by adding new structures to the current infrastructure of both OPUS and the Course Atlas.
Students are regularly frustrated by the inconsistency of OPUS and across the Course Atlas. Some courses feature detailed descriptions of what a class will entail, while others are brief and not helpful, and, as a result, do not reflect a given professor’s version of the class in the slightest. Further, some courses’ syllabi are attached to their Course Atlas description tab, while others offer nothing even after the semester has begun. It is reasonable for students to expect the academic departments on campus to provide the syllabi for all courses after the first day of classes. We also presume that most professors have taught another version of their class, or at least some of the same material; for these situations, professors could post past versions of their syllabi so students have a better idea of what they will be learning throughout the semester.
Our requests to the College are not inhibited by technology, either. The Goizueta Business School offers a complete list of courses with descriptions and syllabi on their version of the Course Atlas through the BBA Portal. The Goizueta Atlas and Opus also allow for students to search for classes based on the time of day, day of the week and professor. Meanwhile, students in the the College currently have to navigate each individual department or subject’s course listings organised solely by course number in order to find a class that might fit their scheduling needs.
Additionally, the current length of the Add/Drop/Swap period does not serve the student population well in several respects. Students who sign up for a course that meets on Mondays and Wednesdays will be given only one opportunity to sit in on that class before they must finalize their schedules.
The College schedule generally hosts the start of fall semester classes on the Wednesday preceding Labor Day and spring semester classes on the Tuesday preceding the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., and as a result, there are no classes on either of the first Mondays of both semesters.
The Add/Drop/Swap calendar needs to account for providing an equal number of meeting days for each scheduled class, and this number is ideally more than one. We do not by any means advocate for classes on Martin Luther King, Jr Day, but there is no reason not to come back from break a day early in order to have more opportunities to attend classes. The current system discourages students from exploring their options and the system does a great disservice to the intellectual curiosity of these students in its rigidity.
Many peer institutions maintain a longer period for dropping a class, as well. This feature would be well adopted by the College, since its current system allowing for withdrawal puts too much pressure on the students to remain in class in which they have little or no interest. During the Add/Drop/Swap period, many professors do not begin the substantive part of their course because they know their classroom will effectively be a revolving door. In other words, they want to serve their students the best they can by providing material to those that intend to take the class. However, this approach hurts students who cannot get an adequate feel for the methodology of that professor or course. Specifically, the Drop period should be extended at least a couple of weeks beyond the end of Add and Swap, allowing for professors to avoid the struggle of new enrollments midway through material, while also allowing for students to leave without the threat of a Withdrawal hanging over their head if they choose not to take the class.
Concerns with the enrollment process itself need to be addressed. While the waitlist system sprung from good intentions, it fails to serve many students by diminishing the role of interest and enthusiasm for course material in a student’s petition for entry into a full course. Sitting on OPUS to get into a course expresses that a student genuinely wants to take it. Signing up for a waitlist might put the less-than-passionate student far ahead of the passionate one purely by chance, and this does neither the professor, the class, or either of the students, any good.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel‘s editorial board.