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Editorial: The art of cross-registration


Have you ever been walking across the Main Green and seen someone wearing paint-splattered jeans and an artistically torn sweater and thought to yourself, "Brown hipster or RISD student?" Though Brown boasts its fair share of hipsters, it is also home, at least during class hours, to a large number of RISD students taking advantage of their ability to cross-register for Brown courses. Of course, Brown students are also able to sign up for RISD courses, so our artsy brethren are probably counting just as many Brown sweatshirts down the hill as we are noticing RISD students whacking us in the shins with their portfolio carrying cases - right? 

In fact, evidence suggests otherwise. According to a recent Herald article, the number of Brown students taking RISD courses has declined, while the number of RISD students enrolled in Brown classes has risen ("More RISD students enroll in Brown courses," Nov. 13). This seems to be a long-term trend. As Herald coverage in 2004 and 2007 indicates, RISD has consistently had both a higher absolute number and percentage of the total student body cross-registered ("Despite uphill battle, Brown and RISD students make cross-registration work," Oct. 7, 2004 and "Signing up down College Hill," Jan. 20, 2007). We do not by any means oppose RISD students registering for Brown courses, but this information indicates Brown students are getting the shorter end of the stick. 

The major discrepancy between the RISD and Brown cross-registration policies lies in the process. For RISD students, this entails getting the proposed course approved by a liberal arts advisor and completing minimal paperwork. Brown's Banner registration website is simple and easy to navigate, but to cross-register at RISD, Brown students need written permission from the course's professor and from registrars at both schools. Then they must meet with an employee in the registrar's office to figure out whether a special petition to the Committee on Academic Standing is needed for them to take the course for credit. Lydia Gidwitz '08 told The Herald in 2007 that RISD professors are often hard to reach, and the course website is difficult to understand. It is frankly dismaying that one process is so much more complicated than the other.

Unfortunately, there are several scheduling differences between Brown and RISD that affect the cross-registration process but cannot be helped. Space in liberal arts lecture classes at Brown is rarely limited, but spots in RISD studio classes are notoriously scarce. Furthermore, these studio art classes take up five hour blocks in a class day, while Brown classes span at most one or two hours. 

There is, though, one large scheduling problem we believe could be solved with no great effort from University officials: the academic calendar. RISD students are not greatly inconvenienced by Brown's one week earlier start date, but Brown students are often importuned by the fact that our dorms close earlier than when RISD classes end in the spring semester. This is not helped by the fact that the late end date of RISD's winter term means the spring schedules never match up between the two schools, which in turn makes overall cross-registration numbers drop significantly. These dates have consistently been a problem for the past eight years at least, and it is time the administrations worked together to address them.

Back in 2004, RISD Registrar Steven Berenback told The Herald, "Whether this (cross-registration statistics) is a trend or not is anyone's guess." More than eight years later, it is apparent that higher cross-registration at RISD is, unfortunately, a clear pattern. Academic and artistic exchange between the two schools is laudable, but it is being implemented in a frustratingly lopsided fashion. Something - whether it is scheduling adjustments or registration reforms - needs to be done about the difficulty of cross-registering at Brown relative to RISD. While we love our neighbors down the hill, we want a fair share of the pie, too. 


Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board: its editors, Daniel Jeon and Annika Lichtenbaum, and its members, Georgia Angell, Sam Choi and Rachel Occhiogrosso. Send comments to


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