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As Brown students await fall 2020 decision, class pre-registration postponed

Pre-registration postponed for second time to August, current registration system will be updated

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, June 4, 2020

The University announced on Wednesday that pre-registration for Fall 2020 for both undergraduates and graduate students has been postponed to early August, allowing students to register after President Christina Paxson P’19 has made a decision about how the next academic year will move forward. The twice postponed registration period had been scheduled for June 15-20. 

The University is still considering three different scenarios for the next academic year, including a completely remote fall, a typical on-campus semester, or a three-semester school year with shorter Fall, Spring and Summer sessions.

The Herald previously reported that Paxson would announce the decision in an email “no later than July 15.”

In all three scenarios for next fall, classes would resume in September either online, in-person or in some combination. Consequently, students will have around a month between pre-registration and the beginning of classes — less time than the usual six months that students have during regular academic years.

This marks the second time that pre-registration has been delayed since the University transitioned to remote learning in March. Pre-registration for the fall semester is usually scheduled to take place in mid-April. 

Offerings for both Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 will be removed from the website on June 16. According to the announcement, items in students’ Primary Cart will also be removed. Prior to June 16, students will receive an email with the contents of their cart and will need to “rebuild the cart” after the system is reset, re-entering any relevant override codes, including those that had already been approved. Courses for next semester will then be posted after the University announces the plan for the coming 2020-2021 academic year.

Dean of the College Rashid Zia ’01 and Dean of the Graduate School Andrew G. Campbell also announced that changes will be made to the current pre-registration system to “improve this process for all students,” in the community-wide email announcing the delay Wednesday.

Zia and Campbell announced that changes will be made to the pre-registration system in order to improve the system and “to accommodate the needs of our expansive global community.” More information will be released leading up to pre-registration in August.

Online pre-registration has long been a woe to University students. In 2008, just two years after Banner’s conception (the precursor to Course@Brown), The Herald reported students attempted to create a computer program to automatically register for classes. Subsequently, administration at the time warned that the action was a violation of University policy.

In a UCS meeting last fall, Zia described possible plans for redesigning pre-registration. At the time, he stated the importance of a new system allowing all students equal access to spots in courses. 

Students will be able to give “advice and feedback” for improving pre-registration through a google form that was linked in the announcement email.

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  1. Brown is faced with an existential crisis.
    It must either change or be swept away by its inability to make strategic changes.

    Brown has insisted that it can “hold the line” with other Ivy League universities, resisting online learning, continuing with runaway capital investments and unsupportable administrative costs.

    Like other universities, Brown has high fixed expenses and little freedom to increase revenues. This is the result of years of overspending and overinvestment.

    There’s not much Brown can do about its heavy capital structure. But Brown can do something about two areas in which it has some strategic degrees of freedom:

    1) Decrease administrative expense. This means firing administration in a drastic way. Brown currently has 1 administrator for every 2 students. It has 288 (!) departments. Brown must reduce this to 1 administrator for every 6 students.

    2) Increase revenues. I have shown how Brown can substantially increase revenues through (a) teaching high school AP classes with Brown professors and Brown students as proctors (+ $100 million), (b) by teaching alums and other interested adults through online courses in a major way (+ $200 million), and (c) by offering online courses and degrees to college undergrads and grad students (+ $300 million).

    This $600 million in additional revenues will be offset by necessary reductions in tuition and scholarship burden.

    The key question is: Is Brown willing to change with the times, or are its deans convinced that Brown can “stay the course” regardless of the cost or risk?

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