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Banner's critics usually moan about its appearance and its restrictions on course signups. It's a tribute to Banner's effectiveness, or perhaps its unsightliness, that the most common complaints are aesthetic. These grievances are a little misdirected: Students have usually been able to find courses through Mocha and, as awful as Banner may look, we suspect that most Brunonians are capable of using it to pick classes, even though the process can be tedious.

Banner's effect on class registration is, in our opinion, a much more reasonable basis for criticism, and CIS deserves credit for focusing its efforts on functional issues first. This fall, CIS implemented an override system that made it much easier for professors to admit students into their classes, and over 5400 overrides were performed.

The override system is a step forward and a fine example of how Banner can support the New Curriculum. But course registration is still far from ideal, and CIS should continue to improve registration by adapting Banner and investing in other online resources to meet students' needs.

Banner currently prevents students from registering for two or more courses that meet at the same time. Given the difficulty of switching into a fully enrolled course, this restriction forces many students to make a final decision between two capped courses before shopping period even begins. The University could avoid this problem by letting students sign up for classes that meet simultaneously, with early deadlines for dropping all but one of the courses.

Strict course caps have had other unfortunate results. Some writing instructors have given spaces to students simply because they were the first to enroll. We feel that non-introductory writing courses should primarily be filled on the basis of a writing sample; pre-registration on Banner should not be a controlling factor. The University could make the writing sample process easier, for students and professors alike, by having professors upload the prompts for their courses' writing samples one month before the start of the semester. Students could then compose their essays during academic breaks, when they are less busy with other classes and applications. Professors who set a writing sample deadline on (or before) the first day of classes, would have time to carefully read essays, and students would have a better sense of their schedules during the early stages of shopping period.

The most significant measure Brown could take to improve class registration is also the simplest: Brown should upload and publicly display syllabi for every course on offer. Uploaded syllabi, even those that are somewhat outdated, would give students a much better feel for the lessons and goals of a course than the 50-word descriptions that abound in the Course Announcement Bulletin. With syllabi as a guide, students could get a head start on assigned reading and have more time to figure out whether the material for a given course is something that truly interests them. Publicly available syllabi would also enhance Brown's image by giving prospective students and curious alumni a closer look at the depth and diversity of Brown's course offerings.

Over the past few years, students and recent alumni have seen paperless pre-registration, and Banner especially, as a threat to the New Curriculum. These concerns will be addressed if and when Brown uses its online resources to support course selections that are flexible and informed.

Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to editorials (at)


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