Back-to-back Banner registration crashes should be cause for alarm and change

SYDNEY KEHOE / THE FLAT HAT

I would love to say that I am prepared for the fall semester of my junior year at the College of William and Mary. Under normal circumstances, I would be happy to tell you that I am scheduled to make good progress on my declared major and minor this upcoming fall. Unfortunately, having suffered through not one, but two debilitating Banner crashes this past week, I am in no such position to do so. As of this piece’s publication, I am enrolled in exactly zero classes for the upcoming fall semester, and I know that within my social class I am far from the only one in this unnerving situation. At least we all received an email apologizing for these abnormal circumstances.

Oh, wait, I made a mistake. These are perfectly normal circumstances. After all, who can even remember a registration period where Banner did not crash while performing its most important function? Who can say that they felt completely assured that they would be registered for the important classes they needed to take, regardless of internet speed? Why am I still able to contribute to the mass of writings concerning an issue which dates as far back as 12 years ago? 

You do not need me to tell you that using Banner has been a deeply flawed registration system. Last week’s struggle to register not only the class of ’22 but the class of ’23 — twice at that — is certainly not the first warning bell in this regard. Frankly, I think we would all appreciate a good reason for why it should not be the last.

And yes, you caught me, I am that opportunist who made a meme about it the whole affair. I confess that I profited off the sufferings of my student community. But you know what? I am told that it was pretty funny, and it so happens that a major source of comedy is pain. Like it or not, I am not the one responsible for the pain inflicted on the classes of ’22 and ’23. Nor, for that matter, are the employees at the Technology Support Center or Information Technology, who work tirelessly on the student community’s behalf within our flawed registration system. 

There are far worse problems to have in the world than a faulty university registration system. But if the problem itself is so trivial, then why has it persisted? Why have countless years passed without any significant improvements to this crucial process? In my short time at the College, I have seen entire buildings renovated from beginning to end at the wishes of the administration. Too bad such effort does not seem to apply to our most basic necessities for academic achievement.

Seriously, not to beat a dead horse at this point, but it is only mildly ironic that the same College administration which decided upon no pass/fail policy out of paternalistic concern  “for our best interest in the long-term” is woefully unprepared to handle course registration while the vast majority of students are on campus — a situation that, fingers crossed, is what the College can expect in the long term.

Moreover, the College is far from the only institution to use Ellucian Banner in its services; in fact, the number of institutions which use Banner worldwide is a whopping 1,400. Surely, not all of these institutions suffer from the same technical difficulties as the College? On the other hand, if Banner works like a charm for these other institutions, then what is it that the College is lacking which prevents successful operations? 

The most informative answer that the class of ’23 received thus far for our Banner woes was in an email from Edward Aractingi, chief information officer, and Sara L. Marchello, associate provost and university registrar. Their email stated that last week, Banner suffered “two different system issues … starting Monday morning when the load on the system increased due to the volume of registration, causing instability and ultimately outages.” While this initially sounds like an infrastructure issue under the purview of the College, Aractingi and Marchello also wrote that “Information Technology is working closely with Ellucian (the software provider of Banner) to troubleshoot.”

There are only two options for the administration to take. Either invest in the infrastructure necessary to support Banner registration, or find a better-suited platform for this crucial process in the lives of the College’s students. If they wish to show their support for us, now is the time.

Lucas Harsche ’23 is majoring in History. In addition to The Flat Hat, Lucas is also the treasurer for both Swim Club and Active Minds, and plays violin in the Symphony Orchestra. Email Lucas at lmharsche@email.wm.edu.

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Opinions Editor Lucas Harsche ‘23 is a history major from Mount Laurel, New Jersey. Lucas previously served as an Associate Opinions Editor and loves working in a section which is committed to sharing the voices of all students on campus. When he is not busy lifeguarding, geeking out over Star Wars, or procrastinating his schoolwork (sometimes all at once), Lucas is also involved on campus in Swim Club, Active Minds, CCM, and the Symphony Orchestra, where he plays violin. Lucas hopes to attend law school after graduation.

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