As the semester comes to an end and class registration approaches, people are dealing with end-of-the-year stress, including finals and figuring out summer plans. This includes making schedules for the next semester, which can often be a hassle as necessary classes are not always available, creating stressful situations for students caught in this predicament. As an English major, I have found the English department has a problem of offering multiple classes with the same times and days, limiting availability for students needing various classes to meet different requirements. This issue needs to be fixed and addressed by the department heads in order for students to have more options for the classes they take each semester.
The first time I noticed this problem was during the winter break before the spring 2021 semester while I was compiling a list of classes I would need. Because I was approaching my last two semesters before graduating, I only had time to take specific classes to meet certain requirements, or I wouldn’t graduate on time. So, I made a list of specific upper-level classes I could not replace and other options that would meet requirements. I was hopeful it would be simple. After all, it’s what any student hopes for when planning for registration. But when I consulted the list of classes on BU Brain and matched them to my own list of required classes, I realized something shocking.
More than half of the upper-level English classes that were being offered for that semester shared the exact same times and days that conflicted with the mandatory class I needed. I couldn’t switch the mandatory class, as there was no other class that would meet the requirement. I then realized there was another problem. On DegreeWorks, the degree progress report software for students, there are lists of alternative classes above each requirement to potentially offer more options. But when I looked for those classes on BU Brain, I saw none of them. The list had seemingly skipped over the exact classes that would have been acceptable replacements, making them useless.
I was caught off guard, but I tried not getting ahead of myself too quickly. This was what course substitutions were for, after all. Surely there would be more classes that would not conflict with my required classes and would be available. So, I checked the page of course substitutions to see which ones would work and returned to the list of available classes and those upper-level substitutions also shared the same times with classes I was already planning on taking, which the substitutions were supposed to fill in for. This didn’t make any sense to me. How was it possible that classes which were meant to be alternatives had the same scheduling problems as the offered classes, making them unavailable as well? That defeated the purpose of those options in the first place. How were upperclassmen supposed to meet their upper-level coursework requirement if limited classes were offered?
So, I immediately reached out to the department director and conveyed my predicament in detail, hoping I would receive help. The moment I fully understood the severity of the situation came when the director looked over my requirements and the offered classes and agreed that this was a problem. I had so many questions when I read the director’s response in an email. Why did it take a student to bring the issue to their attention? Why hadn’t someone noticed this before when creating the classes? How did something like this slip through the cracks?
Limited class options do not always factor into the obvious reason why students have a hard time graduating, which usually include financial struggles, the number of required credit hours and outside responsibilities. But to get enough credits, there needs to be more available classes across all departments. This is a particular problem for students with minors and concentrations, like creative writing. Creative writing students, like myself, need to take both English and creative writing classes, but when departments struggle to create flexible schedules, students are stuck. The school has majors, minors and concentrations in place for students, and yet does not allow for easy scheduling — a problem that persists despite there being a need for change.
Schools seemingly expect students to be strategic with their classes from their very first semester to their last, but that is not always possible, as some classes are not always offered every semester, and departments don’t offer more than one class in each topic. For example, most majors have a foreign language general education, or “gen ed,” requirement, but not all lower-level classes are offered for both Fall and Spring semesters. The student will have no choice but to take a prerequisite course in the fall and its subsequent course in Spring and create their schedules around those classes each semester. There is little choice with regards to scheduling leniency. Furthermore, if an English major had to meet both a British literature and Shakespeare requirement, but the department offered one class for each, at the same time, this would make it impossible for students to take these two, or more, classes in the same semester, further prolonging the process of obtaining credits. How did the school not see this would be a problem for students when scheduling classes?
Even though I was frustrated, I still tried to make sense of everything. Maybe then I could see how it was possible for many classes to share the same schedules, especially being online and not being given a classroom and different times to avoid overlapping with so many other classes. Logically, one classroom cannot be used for two classes at a time, even though a computer can be used anywhere and at any time, not to mention staffing concerns. But what confused me the most was how the course substitutions did not do their job, and the director was not aware. Further, I received no explanation as to why this problem existed. Luckily, she did propose a different class that would not have usually been allowed to meet the requirement I needed but only made an exception due to my tricky circumstances.
Once that was resolved, I pushed the concern for the situation repeating itself out of my head until registration rolled around within the last week, and I began searching for classes again. With the fall 2021 semester being my last at Binghamton University, I need to get all of my classes, or I will not graduate. Fear lingered from the last semester over the imminent scheduling conflicts, and I somehow knew the problem hadn’t been solved. Sure enough, despite having spoken directly to the head of the English department about this exact problem, what stared back at me from my computer screen were many classes with the same days and times, some fulfilling the same requirements.
I implore BU to take responsibility for the limited class options within their departments and to help students find classes they need by improving the faulty system. Maybe BU feels certain departments like English are not as in demand as others, but students are still applying and attending, and therefore need to be considered. I was lucky to have been helped by staff, and a survey revealed that 34 percent of students believe administrators resolved a concern to their satisfaction, which proves that some students have faith in staff. Students are open to communication, but the college needs to take that step toward letting the students know they are important, and they deserve to have more class options.
Nechama Chabus is a senior majoring in English.