Paul Swartz is a mechanical engineering junior. The following was part of an email conversation with the Office of the Registrar, and was also submitted as a letter to the editor.
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Regarding the enforcement of the compliance standards, I believe it is wrong to penalize students who do not cooperate with a system that is inherently flawed. In theory, PolyPlanner is a good idea because it should allow administrators to see what classes students plan on taking, allowing them to schedule faculty accordingly. Unfortunately, where it falls short is in its enforcement, whereby students are penalized for not “updating” their PolyPlan several quarters in advance.
This is a ludicrous system that raises several questions:
1. How are students supposed to know which classes they will be enrolling in two quarters from now?
Department heads are assigning resources for classes that students might not even end up taking two quarters from now for a whole host of reasons. A student can change their mind at the drop of a hat, and believe me when I say that their first thought is not, “I need to update my PolyPlan to reflect my recent change of plans.” Not only is it unwise to plan an entire quarter based on data from six months ago, but it is also unfair to students. It is a flat-out irresponsible way to spend department resources.
2. Who actually takes PolyPlanner seriously?
By creating a system that penalizes students for failing to mindlessly drag and drop classes into an online to-do list, the integrity of the program is compromised. Out of the countless people I have talked to about PolyPlanner since its inception, I can probably count on one hand the number of students who didn’t just fill it out to avoid the penalty. If Cal Poly’s registration staff thinks that student participation is an indicator of the success of PolyPlanner, they are wrong. Take it from an actual student; almost nobody sincerely “plans” their quarters with PolyPlanner. This essentially begs the next question:
3. If everyone lies on their PolyPlanner anyway, how much can the results be trusted?
Supposedly winter quarter is being planned based on recent PolyPlanner data, but this is futile because that data means absolutely nothing. It is a waste of time and resources to plan two quarters ahead based on data that students provide just to avoid a penalty. The data is not indicative of students’ actual intentions at all, yet it is being trusted like a sworn testimony.
4. Why penalize students for failing to complete their PolyPlan by undermining the system itself?
If the point of PolyPlanner is to provide accurate registration data for the future, penalizing students by giving them the last possible registration option is a counterproductive way to ensure its use. Even before this penalty, students in the last registration spot are almost guaranteed to get none of the classes they want (ask me how I know), forcing them to crash other classes that are not vital to their degree progress just for the sake of having full-time status. This could ultimately cause a student to fall behind in their curriculum and even graduate late, which amounts to a real (and exceedingly expensive) financial penalty to the student. Not only is it detrimental to the student, but now the revered PolyPlanner data is more tainted than before, because even if the student is the one in a hundred that actually is honest with their PolyPlan, any reliable course data that they could have supplied (i.e. for Fall 2017) is now worthless because they will not be able to get into the classes that they wanted.
I made a mistake in forgetting to fill out my PolyPlan with classes that I will not be taking for almost a year, and I acknowledge that. But I do not believe it makes any sense to penalize me for neglecting to respond to a survey that yields misguided results with real consequences. It is almost humorous to think that I will not get any of the classes I want next quarter while students who lied about their responses will have no problem enrolling in courses contrary to what their PolyPlan indicates.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with a new headline.