Students in this quarter’s Ethics and Philosophy (PHIL 231) class had their first moral dilemma in the very first few minutes of class: vote five of the eleven “crashers” to be enrolled into the class.
“Everybody gave their little spiel of why they should be added to the class,” theatre senior Rotem Drori said.
“Then [the students’] names were written on the board with a number and then everybody got five votes that they could divide however they wanted [between the candidates], and the top five [with the most votes] got into the class,” Drori said.
Computer engineering sophomore Anthony Palazzo was seeking entrance to PHIL 231 to satisfy the minimum number of units to be a full-time student; had he not successfully crashed the class, Palazzo would not have met the academic standing required to be on the track team.
“[The voting process] was definitely interesting. Overall, I thought it was a better system than letting in whoever is first on the waitlist, whoever happens to be lucky,” Palazzo said.
Crashing courses is undoubtedly a stressful, and unfortunately, common experience for many Cal Poly students.
To add to the stress, some remain unaware that the capacity of a given classroom does not necessarily equate to the enrollment capacity.
In other words, empty seats do not guarantee a spot in the class; instead, this depends on the number of available resources that allow a professor to efficiently teach a class.
For students like nutrition sophomore Rachel Gomez and business administration senior Megan Johnson, attitude matters when it comes to waitlists and crashing.
“Of course, at the beginning, the anxiety is through the roof, but then you just start to calm down a little bit … and whatever happens, happens,” Gomez said. “It’s a hope-for-the-best-type of thing.”
Johnson adds, “a lot of the frustration comes from not getting the ideal schedule every quarter,” but it is imperative to “be strategic with your schedule and be open to different options.”
PolyPlanner: A remedy?
Some students express disappointment in PolyPlanner, the university’s first step toward remedying the problem of class availability and listening to students’
“It’s definitely helped me plan my year ahead, but involving getting classes, I don’t think its helped that much,” Palazzo said.
Implemented in Spring 2014, PolyPlanner presented students with the opportunity to inform both faculty schedulers and the administration of which classes they wanted to take in
In turn, the schedulers would determine student demand and use that information to offer enough sections and seats for a particular class.
“Imagine theoretically, there are 18,000 undergraduates and every single one legitimately, intentionally and carefully tells us exactly what they want to take in fall of 2017. Faculty does their best to line up their resources, advocate for resources, to be able to meet that demand,” University Registrar Cem Sunata said. “Would crashing happen? On a much smaller scale. The only reason it would happen is if students didn’t get the classes they wanted to take because of time conflicts, if personal commitments came up.”
Despite this objective and the extensive marketing behind the product and with more than two years since its introduction, some students remain skeptical of the electronic tool and
“I’ve heard that professors and administrators don’t even pay attention to it,” Drori said.
Software engineering senior Kyle Reis adds that PolyPlanner “hasn’t made the situation worse, but I wouldn’t say it’s helped it either.”
On the other hand, Johnson says that “department chairs do use [data from PolyPlanner] to plan schedules.”
Gomez adds that PolyPlanner does help organize future quarters and “helps [me] see what units I need to graduate on time.”
All perspectives aside, it might simply be too soon to tell whether PolyPlanner has reduced the need to crash classes.
Sunata compares the lengthy implementation process of university-wide initiatives with newly-elected government officials attempting to
“When you’re dealing with an entire country, trying to solve this sore spot, change doesn’t happen overnight. Processes need to change, bureaucracy needs to change, and slowest of them all, culture needs to change — humans, and the way they perceive a problem and the solution,” Sunata said.