Posted April 11, 2013 by Cooper Point Journal in Letters & Opinion

Healthy Competition and Early Registration

The first week of Spring Quarter is over – did you get into the program you wanted? No? How about that beginning art course? Not that, either?

Every quarter seems to begin with a litany of “sorry,” and, “that sucks, dude,” as first, second, and even third-year Evergreen students compete for seats in programs – especially evening courses like Beginning Photography, Ceramics, and that one cool looking graphic novel course. These evening courses are for all levels, but teachers and administration have noticed a pattern of senior students taking most of the spots.

At Evergreen, seniors have the best time-ticket to sign up for programs and courses. Juniors always register the next day, followed by sophomores and freshmen. In many day programs, there are reserved seats for freshmen, but there are rarely similar requirements in evening courses – it’s open season and seniors get to choose their game, leaving many other students to settle for less.

Both Steve Davis and Hugh Lentz teach separate photography courses in the evening; Davis estimated that 60 percent of the students in his beginning photography course were seniors (the other 35 percent were juniors), while Lentz figured that over 90 percent of his beginning photography students were seniors.

“It’s a problem,” Davis said, “because [seniors] are graduating soon, and won’t take the more advanced classes.” Davis and Lentz both use their beginning photography course as a prerequisite for their other photography courses.

In her past ceramics courses, Aisha Harrison taught mostly seniors, but recently decided to teach only freshmen and sophomores.

“If I’m only ever teaching seniors,” Harrison said, “I’ll only have them for one quarter.”

Harrison felt that teaching freshmen and sophomores would allow a stronger community to be built around ceramic art at Evergreen, because underclassmen may continue to build on their ceramic background as they progress through the college.

This registration system is designed to give “seniority” to upper classmen. Programs that students miss out on as freshmen become available to them as seniors. This may seem like a fair and impartial system, but it gives seniors who habitually receive less than full credit in their programs a chance to register for programs at the same time as seniors who constantly earn full credit. Is it fair that those two groups of seniors should have the same time slot for registration?

Absolutely not.

Two changes should be made to address the issues of registration and senior-class domination. First, Evergreen should adopt an “early registration” system for students that consistently earn full credit in their programs. With an early registration system, only students who take 16 credits would be eligible for early registration. This way, students who take only four or eight credits would not compete with those who take on a full load. For incoming freshmen, the college could evaluate their high school GPA to determine if they are eligible for early registration. Early registration students would begin to register for programs before registration is open to other students of similar class standing (for example, early registration students would begin at 7 a.m., and general registration would begin at 8 a.m.). The goal of the early registration system is to give students who consistently earn all of their credits a chance to separate themselves from students who do not.

Second, prerequisite-free evening courses should be open for all students to register for on the same day. Registration for day programs and upper-division evening courses would be subject to the same system Evergreen has currently in place, with seniors getting first pick on Monday, all the way down to freshmen on Thursday. On Friday, prerequisite-free courses would become available for all students to register for, regardless of class standing. And, of course, early-registration students would sign up for courses before the rest. The result would mix all the class levels together, which would better fit with Evergreen’s ideal of an interdisciplinary learning community, rather than courses being dominated by seniors.

Unfortunately, these changes come into conflict with Evergreen’s pedagogy: the college believes that there shouldn’t be competition within the education system. This is why Evergreen doesn’t use traditional grades, class ranking systems, and hasn’t already established an early registration system.

It is time Evergreen allowed a little competition between students –  competition based on how well you do as a student, not based on how many years you’ve been in college. It is important to reward students who constantly excel with the chance to further their education in the direction they wish. Evergreen should recognize that courses with a mix of all class standings would create stronger learning communities than senior-dominated courses. Evergreen has had these issues for a long time – let’s finally get around to fixing them.

By Ray Still