Two weeks ago, I had a milestone.
It's taken seven semesters, 13 mental breakdowns, 35 attempts to join the circus, 108 hours of classes and countless nights of studying, but I finally registered for classes for the last time. I'm on the final road to graduation.
No more DARS reports, add slips or course descriptions. I'm done.
Originally, I considered that day to be a success. But for me, the process of registering was bittersweet.
It's not that I'm necessarily nostalgic, or that I will miss UT. I've had a great three and a half years here, but I'm ready to move on. The problem is that while registering, I realized that the entire process is unfair. Too many people get special preferences, too many people get a chance that others need. Ultimately, I'm saying that I hate priority registration.
I understand why it's there. I understand why some students get a priority spot in registering for classes, but it doesn't make it right. They get the chance to take whatever classes they want, while everyone else is left to scramble, plan contingency schedules and spend hours fretting over the possibility of getting into that one capstone class that is necessary to graduate. It's just not fair.
In my major, there are several classes that one needs to take to be a history major. There's 499, a thesis class, and then there are a cornucopia of other 300 and 400 level classes that must fit the descriptions of a diverse education. There are so many little nuances that go into graduating with a major in history. My problem with this system isn't that there needs to be a diverse education; in fact, I agree wholeheartedly with it. The problem, instead, is that there are only a finite number of sections and seats available in those classes, and that whenever registration opens up, it's a mad dash to fill those available slots. In the reality that all those not blessed with priority registration exist in, your seniority hours and grade allow you an earlier time, and thus a better shot, at getting into those classes and graduating on time. But that system, which is probably the fairest version that could exist, is undermined by priority registration. For some students, the luxury of registering weeks before the general populace, allows them the opportunity to fill in the slots that other students are counting on to allow them to graduate. Be it a history major or not, if that person is granted priority registration, they can jump ahead of the queue to the front, skipping students who need those slots.
Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I in no way blame students who have priority registration. Be it through their athletic or academic prowess, they were given that opportunity in recognition for their hard work, and shouldn't be either the object of ire or viewed as the cause of the problem. They're part of the system, not the cause of it. For me, the problem rests in the signals that our university itself is sending out.
This past summer, Chancellor Cheek started on the warpath of "fifteen in four." He views the path for higher graduation rates to be fifteen hours each semester, which will therefore correlate to graduation in four years. But this, however, runs counter to the message and the effects that priority registration causes. Everyone knows that one person who gets shafted into staying an extra semester or year just because their capstone class filled up before they can get a spot. They can't graduate in four, regardless of the number of hours they take.
What do we need besides slogans, more classes, more teachers, more sections.
Students want to graduate in four years, but to do that either the field to graduate needs to be extended, or the playing field needs to be leveled.
I was lucky to be able to graduate in four, my add slips and incredible smile getting me into the classes I needed. But other people aren't as lucky. For eight registration periods I've gotten the classes I need, but during that time countless students who have waited their turn to climb up the rung of registering earlier have been messed over by the system.
And that's not fair.
— Preston Peeden is a senior in history. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org