Registering Complaints: Talking to Students about Registration

In his seminal work “Leviathan”, Thomas Hobbes posits that without an absolute sovereign over us, society would fall into a “State of Nature.” This state would have human beings at their most cruel, as they fight and squander over every bit of solidarity for their own gain. It will be a purgatory of selfishness, malice, and distrust of fellow human beings. Without someone to dominate our actions, we are left destitute in our own individualism. This has nothing to do with the live registration process. 

Every semester, as you all undoubtedly know, Georgetown students frantically begin planning for their next semester and register for the classes they want to take and with which they need to graduate. It’s a simple process on paper: you look for classes that you need, you make sure they do not clash, you write down the CRN codes, and then you sign up at 1 p.m. on an allotted date. The issue is that because of a cosmic concoction of causes, registration can become one of the most hectic, stress-inducing, and chess-like moments of the semester. This article looks at the different experiences students have with the live registration process throughout the batches, and what they feel can and should be done.

I do want to talk about what used to exist before live registration though: pre-registration. Pre-registration was the previous system of choosing classes. It focused more on getting classes done rather than having classes you want to have. The process was not time-sensitive, but rather at some point in a week you sent the CRN codes of your preferred classes to the Registrar. After sending in your codes, the registrar and deans got together in a dimly lit room in the middle of the night, threw your preferences in the trashcan and assigned you to all of the cores that you have been avoiding. Or something like that. 

The point is that it was not autonomous, but it was a guarantee that you would get five courses. One Senior, really the last batch that had to deal with pre-registration, said that it was “not as stressful, because you were gonna get classes that you needed anyway” but did agree that it was a different kind of frustrating when you couldn’t have the autonomy to get the classes you wanted. When discussing pre-registration with other batches, there was a general consensus that the more centralized pre-registration process doesn’t sound as nice as the more autonomous live registration process.

That does not mean they thought live-registration was good.

Different batches and majors have different issues with the live-registration process. I decided to talk to Juniors and Sophomores of the two most popular majors, International Politics and International Economics, to see how their experiences have been dealing with getting the classes they want and need. There is a wide-ranging issue that the Sophomores face, especially IPOL and IECO Sophomores, which is that there are no courses available for them by the time they apply. With many of their cores already finished, they find themselves either perpetually waitlisted for the courses that they want, taking credit electives, or begging professors to let them into their “Juniors and Seniors only” courses. Some IECO sophomores could not even get into Calculus, a course that is a prerequisite for most of their major requirements. The IPOL Sophomores feel that there needs to be a priority list for either their majors or certificates. The feeling between both majors is that the cap for class sizes need to be raised, as they feel Georgetown isn’t the same small school that it imagines itself to be. 

That feeling is shared by the Juniors, who feel just as claustrophobic. This sentiment is particularly present amongst the IPOL Juniors, whose registration process is a particularly macabre scene. As there are about fifty IPOL majors in the batch, with such a limited number of courses present, they are one of the biggest advocates for a cap raise. The argument is particularly resonant in this age of online classes, where the feeling of small classes and discussion have diminished greatly on Zoom and camera talk.  The IECO majors, who are clearly not as large, have similar feelings for their core requirements, as some fight tooth and nail to get in courses they have to take, or they will not graduate on time.

There is the implicit argument being made here that Georgetown is taking too many students in, and that with the batches growing in such a large size Georgetown is not able to keep up in terms of course and structure. There is also a more subtle argument being made here that Georgetown Qatar might be losing what is special about it in taking in these larger numbers of students. On an unrelated note, I talked to a few freshmen too. 

Their concerns seem to be less about what classes to take but feeling helpless about what to do. The live-registration process has been described as “overwhelming” by one student. The feeling is not that the administration has taught them how to register, but the worry is that they are consistently making mistakes. With the lack of a uniform spatial area for the freshmen, especially since everything is online, many of the freshmen who are not in Doha feel disconnected from the “in” group that are in contact with upperclassmen who can help them out. This, though, is accepted as a unique problem and should be easily remedied with the end of this pandemic. 

There seems to be a consensus amongst students that the classrooms will need to get bigger and there needs to be more safety nets for courses that are pivotal to graduation. I imagine though that these structures are not easy to implement. That, though, cannot and will not stop us students from complaining. Just as much as we know the administration is working to fix these issues, we should also let them know that we won’t let them forget about it. Also, remember, if you didn’t get all five classes, you can always cross-register.