PATH sucks


Tory Cole ‘27 is a prospective history and religious studies major. She loves playing on the Girl’s Club Soccer Gold team and is so excited to be joining the Flat Hat to reach the William and Mary community.

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.

When I talked to my two college-aged sisters about the blood-bath style of the Banner 9 registration system we had at William & Mary, all they had to say was “that’s stupid.” When I told them about the new PATH system, I was intrigued to discover that they found the new system even stupider. At first I liked the idea of avoiding the 7 a.m. “Hunger Games” for classes, but as soon as I took to a whiteboard in Washington Hall and began to map out my schedule, I was faced with glaring issues. 

Yes, we still have the ability to prioritize classes in the PATH system, and there are a decent amount of potential benefits with the new system. I think that there is something to be said for a more equitable system of registration, and there are aspects about PATH that could be great for students. However, there is a lack of real autonomy within the system, and giving a system the ability to make personal choices about our schedules has a real potential for bad outcomes.

My first concern is the distance between classes. The computer doesn’t know each individual student’s walking pace, or any other factors that might affect how fast a person can get from one building on campus to another. Using the Banner 9 system, students could select classes in a way in which they could keep their movement in mind. However, under the PATH system, with the 36 classes that we have the ability to select, if you get your second alternate for your third choice and your first alternate for your seventh choice, for example, it might not be possible for some students to get from their first to their second class in time. This might happen to me, as there is no way that I am getting from Wren to Boswell Hall in 10 minutes. The computer doesn’t know that only some students have bikes, some classes have the tendency to get out earlier or that some students are more comfortable being a minute late to a lecture than others. When students have the ability to select classes in a descending order in which they can factor in what classes they already have, they can create a schedule in which their personal education is prioritized. The PATH system just puts us all into a hat in which we all become depersonalized and our uniqueness is not factored in. 

In the same vein, I’m worried about students’ individual needs in their day-to-day lives. Of course, I don’t know the exact system of how PATH’s algorithm works, but it can’t really know that I feel more comfortable having a majority of classes on particular days of the week because of my extracurricular activities, when it’s easier to call my mom or any other considerations I would have when making a schedule. There are so many different factors that students have in their lives that made the individualization of the Banner 9 system so important. Throwing all the students into the PATH system and letting a computer figure out their schedules leaves a bad taste in my mouth. We have more going on in our lives than just showing up to classes. Housing location, jobs, transportation, medical issues and so many more are all factors that we as students were able to keep in mind as we made our schedules in the Banner 9 system. However, in the PATH system, you don’t know which ones of your top classes are going to be chosen. When selecting the alternatives for your 8th or 9th choice in your primary cart, you don’t know whether you are putting something that could really screw your schedule up. 

Ultimately, I’m worried about what the PATH system means for our autonomy over our education in the future. When things like our class schedule become more and more computerized, I have some concerns about the depersonalization of our education as technology continues to advance. I think the PATH system has a serious capacity to interfere with a student’s ability to graduate within the time they need, participate in extracurriculars and plan out their individual days. Every student is unique, and we need to have a registration system that reflects that.

Okay, full disclosure. I wrote this piece a few days before the PATH schedule was released, and although I was skeptical about the success of the system, I figured that having some optimism was the way to go. I thought there’d certainly be some issues, but I was cautious against fully attacking the new registration system. I had some faith in the basic algorithm. I thought we would all get at least the credit amount we all needed, with at least one or two choices from our Primary Cart. I had no clue that the system would absolutely appall me in the way it did. I suspected that some people might get some bad classes, but I had no prediction of so much of the student body getting less credits than a full-time student. 

I am one of the lucky ones. I got 15 credits of classes, and they all go towards either my major requirements or COLL requirements. However, my original concerns came to light, as I have four classes three times a week, and three of those are back to back, and one class twice a week. This is not really compatible with my extracurriculars and personal preferences, but I am so grateful that I at least have classes and am a full-time student. I shouldn’t have to be one of the lucky, thankful ones. My situation, getting enough classes, should have been the norm, the very basic result of PATH. We should all have gotten classes we needed and wanted, but instead people are staring at a schedule of 9 credits and are gearing up for a brutal add/drop period. 

My new conclusion, without my previous optimistic naivety, is that the PATH system had no business being used for our registration system this year. It clearly was not ready or equipped to deliver the student body competent schedules, nevertheless deliver personalized, unique schedules that would set us up for success. I never imagined that PATH would fail the students of William and Mary the way it did. I didn’t like the system in the first place due to the depersonalization, but now I recognize that there is no way that this system should have been presented to us, with its clear shortcomings and what I believe to be ultimate failure. Whoever made the YikYak post that said “Now I’m on the PATH to graduating late,” please know that I laughed out loud at that, and then immediately asked to include this addendum to my piece. The students of this school have been failed, and we deserve so much better. This disgraceful situation should be a lesson — there is some sort of mindless neglect from admin for the success of students, and that needs to change. 


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