Banner causes class registration woes

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November 9, 2010

12:38 AM

Registration: The most stressful two minutes during any given semester at the College of William and Mary. No matter how much effort goes into the pre-registration planning process, there always seem to be classes that you just cannot get into.

The College uses Sungard Higher Education’s Banner program as its administrative software. Although Banner is popular in many collegiate settings, for the College community, it may not be the best choice. The survival-of-the-fittest programming is responsible for the immense, all-consuming anxiety that strikes students. Classes in Banner can be restricted in various ways, such as by requiring instructor permission. But in addition, the professor’s discretion in restricting class enrollment, registration prioritization is based on social class alone. This means that a student’s major does not matter when registering — a psychology major is just as capable of registering for a history class as is an actual history major.

Here lies one of the greatest flaws in Banner: student’s majors, or classes required for students to receive their graduation credits, are not taken into account when registering. This causes the intense anxiety that infects students. Not only are they fighting tooth and nail to get into the classes they want, they are fighting to get the classes they need in order to graduate. Banner does not allow for general prioritization, by major or any other aspect, aside from social class. A sophomore is hoping to get all of his or her General Education Requirements fulfilled before studying abroad his or her junior year may not be able to compete with seniors, juniors and fellow sophomores. Students are not immensely stressed during registration because they cannot get what they want, but rather because the classes they need are unavailable to them.

Banner is not the only problem with registration. Small class sizes and a low student-teacher ratio are great features of which the College boasts, but they make it intensely difficult for students, since the spots available for their classes are extremely limited. The database used for registration should take into account the student’s class preferences, as well as their major, desired graduation date and social class. Seniors should continue to receive priority over underclassmen, since they traditionally graduate at the end of the year, but registration needs to base prioritization on more than just social class.

If a program could take students’ class preferences — as well as other vital characteristics such as their major — into account, then the registration system would be vastly improved. Banner gives first pick to upperclassmen, but if some program could find a way to also give priority to students with regard to their chosen major as well, there would be a great deal less stress surrounding registration.

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