Cut the Red Tape, Already!

What is one thing a Registrar does? We make paths to education clear.

I’ve said before that the Registrar is in a unique position in a university or college. We touch every part of the institution. Some might put it negatively and say that we have our tentacles around every department’s throat. I prefer to think of it like the hub of a bicycle wheel with spokes going in and out to where the action is. We provide the supportive infrastructure that makes a college or university work. And when it doesn’t work, we have to get out the spoke tightening tool and get a little grease on our hands.

How do we use our unique position? For good – only for good. Remember, grasshopper, with great power comes great responsibility 😉

Here’s an example that occurred just two days ago.

A student had been pre-registered for a course next semester but through no fault of his own ended up waitlisted for the course. What made it really difficult for this student was that he was a 4th year student in a BA degree and this course was required for his program. He had tried to take it many times over his academic career, but was always slightly lower on the priority list than other students and had never been able to be registered for the course. He had patiently waited and this semester should have been able to be in the course, but somehow had been bumped out. In the meantime, the course had filled up and the instructor had even let a couple of extra students in (it’s a very popular course).

The student contacted my office and registered his complaint very nicely but firmly. He was in a bind because my office had flagged this course as one he must take in the next semester if he wished to graduate, but then our system had somehow bumped him out of the course. What to do? The problem worked its way up the chain to me.

The solution involved four departments, none of whom knew that they had contributed to the problem because they couldn’t see the whole picture. Only the Registrar’s Office could see this. Our registration system has a prioritizing algorithm that determines who gets into classes in what priority, and there are many departments that influence this, but only my office can see the algorithm and how students are prioritized as a result. In this case, the algorithm had worked, but there were unique factors that meant the outcome wasn’t the right outcome.

I put on my negotiating hat and approached each manager separately explaining the difficult spot this student was in and proposing a solution. I also had to go directly to the faculty member, explained what had happened (actually, I apologized) and asked if he could let this student into the course even though it was over-subscribed.

I breathed a deep sigh of relief when everyone agreed to make it work. In fact, two departments determined to change a policy and process so that they interacted better with the other departments and wouldn’t cause this problem in the future.

The student was able to get back into the class and providing he passes (which I’m sure he will), he’ll graduate this spring. Yay!

I like to describe my job as clearing the path for education to occur. Or I could just say, “I work at TWU.” But you’ve already read why that doesn’t work.

Merry Christmas!

Grant

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