(Andrew Rumments)

By

When the clock strikes midnight on November 2, the chaos that is class registration will begin once again, and students will huddle up with their friends (and their computers) to fight the greatest recurring battle of their time at Eastern: the battle for the classes they actually want.It typically takes just one experience registering for classes to permanently scar most Eastern students, and unfortunately for all of us, it’s the time of year for digging at those old wounds.

Beginning the night of November 2, the battle will rage on.

An army consisting of thousands of students will slam the EKU Direct server, inevitably slowing it to a crawl, if not crashing it.

“Refresh” buttons will be attacked without mercy, and cheers will echo through residence halls and computer labs as students finally reach login screens.

Those cheers will give way to sighs as students are booted from the system and their celebrated login screens one by one. The third or fourth time it happens, the sighs change to groans of defeat before maturing to outbursts of rage around 1 a.m.

Feeling tired and defeated, some duck for cover beneath their sheets, but the diligent fight on. And just when all appears lost and wills bend to the point of breaking, their diligence inexorably pays off.

The system gradually gives way to the opposing flood of students, and students go clicking their way into the Promised Land.

For that brief moment, as students finally punch in CRN numbers and press “submit,” all is right with the world.

That is, until they realize half the classes they wanted are already full.

Forced to grin and bear it, students with the latest registration dates draw the shortest straws and face the headache of overrides or the acceptance of the phrase, “maybe next year.”

Up until now, students have more or less paid their dues equally. Dates for registration were ordered strictly on seniority and the number of hours students had previously taken. Under that system, incoming freshman suffered most, followed by soon-to-be sophomores, then juniors and so on.

The more time you spent at Eastern, the better your position in line was for the classes you wanted (and more often needed).

But all that changed for the spring 2010 semester, and changed so radically that some students may never know the frustration and suffering of the registration trenches.

A new course registration policy at Eastern now permits some students to register for classes earlier than others based on merit or activities at Eastern. These include students with certain disabilities, students in Eastern’s honors program, student-athletes and members of the cheerleading squad, dance team and marching band.

These groups are permitted to register for any and all classes on November 3, one day after graduate students and seniors with more than 102 hours and one day before all other seniors.

That’s some pretty serious seniority in the scheme of things, placing these students ahead of most seniors and all juniors, sophomores and (obviously) freshman.

The thought behind the policy is pretty obvious – it’s designed to accommodate those students with scheduling conflicts who are formally associated with Eastern, giving them a pat on the back and a huge boost when it comes to scheduling classes around their other commitments.

In spite of this logic, something doesn’t seem quite fair.

The policy dictates that a freshman involved with the marching band, the football team or the honors program, for example, gains precedent in class scheduling over a student who has paid their dues and fought the system for six grueling semesters.

The argument can be made that a freshman student-athlete isn’t hunting for the same classes as a returning junior, but that’s not the case for sophomores and juniors hunting for mid-level classes in programs.

Classes are often limited in size and competitive within majors and departments, and seniority within these majors and departments used to be what balanced the equation of scheduling: If a student wasn’t able to snag a spot in a class one semester, they could look forward to having a better shot next year with their place on the totem pole rising.

How the influx of hundreds more students into priority registration will impede typical students’ abilities to secure classes is yet to be seen, but intuition points to more competition and a loss of ground for average students at Eastern.

And the grievances don’t stop there.

The policy also means that a walk-on to an Eastern sports team with a full scholarship can pick and choose their desired classes and times, then coast while a student who struggles to afford tuition by working two jobs is forced to do their best scheduling work around classes.

Furthermore, it says nothing about accommodating students with families to tend to, or students involved with organizations that aren’t in the “designated populations.”

In many ways, students with families and students working their fingers to the bone to afford to come to Eastern are showing greater dedication to the university than someone who agrees to lead cheers or take part in sporting events.

Eastern has taken missteps in the past to make average students feel like second-class citizens (i.e. the Greek Towers controversy), but this policy is the definition of leaping before you look.

Granting special privileges to some groups and not others is favoritism, plain and simple. A system that used to be fair and equal has now been tainted by it, and just because other universities are doing it, too, doesn’t make it right.

It’s understood that Eastern has invested in these students, often with scholarships that are well deserved.

But bending over backwards to give them priority in scheduling is a great way to make other hard-working students feel underappreciated and undervalued by the university.