Last week, seniors registered for spring classes using the Registrar’s new system: Plan Ahead. We are frustrated with the confusing nature of this system itself — along with the Registrar’s instructions, which barely helped — and we are perplexed by the Registrar’s decision to transition into a new system despite the complications of learning during a pandemic.
We are the first to recognize that the Office of the Registrar performs an essential service on Kenyon’s campus; as documented in our recent article, the Office truly is “the plumbing of Kenyon College.” But the choice to switch to a system that is vastly more complex than it needs to be, at a time when students are desperately searching for something straightforward, represents a leak in that plumbing.
Plan Ahead is by no means a user-friendly system, nor does it seem particularly designed for Kenyon’s registration process. To register for classes, students were instructed to hit the “Plan Ahead” button as opposed to the “Register” button on the Plan Ahead website. Additionally, there is no place to enter one’s alternate PIN, which the Registrar requires in order to register. Instead, students need to leave a note with their PIN in “Round 1” of the system. Students must also click on the specific section of the class they want to register for, even if the class only has one section (this mistake has caused many of us to receive follow-up emails from the Registrar).
As seniors, we are well-versed in the complexities registration often presents. We know which courses tend to fill up quickly and that you should have your course numbers ready to copy and paste. Each of us swears by one spot on campus for registration, insisting the connection is a second faster than any place else. But Plan Ahead has not only thrown a wrench in the chaotic equilibrium that is course registration; it has also left even the most experienced of us bewildered. We are not exaggerating when we say that two of us spent more than an hour trying to navigate this inaccessible system.
What is more, the Registrar was aware of the confusion this new system might cause, as illustrated by the cumbersome set of instructions it sent out to the student body. The fact that the Office felt it was necessary to send the instructions to begin with should be a sign that the new system might add more complication and stress to an already extremely difficult remote semester. It should be enough for them to realize that this new system might not be a good idea. Aside from this, the instructions themselves are less than ideal, with inadequate explanations for the various hoops necessary to jump through in order to schedule one’s classes.
While we are sympathetic to the Registrar’s need to accommodate the various time zones of students off campus, we are concerned that they ignored more important accessibility needs in a desire to rush the registration process. Especially for off-campus students who do not have in-person access to the Registrar, it is less than ideal to have to schedule virtual meetings with them, in addition to having to schedule a virtual meeting with their advisor and, in some cases, re-read instructions that are confusing in the first place. On a similar note, the format of the instructions — a single document with lots of small text and few visuals — suggests that accessibility needs were last on the Registrar’s list.
We are lucky to be able to continue our undergraduate studies in a time when most aspects of normal life are at a standstill. However, a confusing registration process felt like an additional stressor in a complicated and often frustrating semester. We hope the Registrar will keep this in mind when determining its policies for course registration in future semesters, whether in a pandemic or not.
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Mae Hunt ’21 and Evey Weisblat ’21, managing editor Sophie Krichevsky ’21 and executive director Elizabeth Stanley ’21. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.