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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

SIS needs a major overhaul

The administration has let students down on something so crucial to every student.

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Bendetson Hall is pictured on April 12, 2023.

The frustration associated with the Student Information System is universal for Tufts students. Students wanting to update personal information or modify their course enrollment are likely to encounter numerous technological issues. I myself have to use Safari to access SIS since Chrome hasn’t allowed access for several months for me. I have also heard horror stories of students not being able to register for classes because SIS would not open on any browser. The problems associated with SIS can prevent many students from getting into classes they need for their major or distribution requirements. Given that SIS is such an integral part of the academic experience at Tufts, it is completely unacceptable that its numerous faults have gone unaddressed for years.

Tufts Technology Services is the organization at Tufts that supports SIS. Given that SIS hasn’t changed one bit since I arrived at Tufts in 2020, it seems TTS hasn’t devoted a lot of time to developing SIS. Despite TTS not improving SIS’s interface, I don’t hold them accountable.

If the administration were in tune with the needs and concerns of the student body, they would have known about the issues with SIS since its inception. Every student at Tufts registers for courses. Thus, everyone needs SIS. Navigating SIS during the middle of a semester is perfectly fine: Navigating doesn’t take long, the pages load quickly and clearly and the browser cooperates. However, the moment a large wave of users visit SIS — during course registration or when the next semester’s courses get released — all hell breaks loose. The website often crashes, especially at very unfortunate times: SIS once crashed for me during my registration time, preventing me from enrolling in an economics class I needed for my major.

Tufts’ administration continually fails to prioritize the needs of students in favor of cost-effective measures with negative impacts. The reversion of the COVID-19 meal swipe policy last fall caused bitter frustration among students, especially for those who are mandated to enroll in the Premium Plan. When I was a freshman, the Premium Plan could be used at every Tufts Dining establishment — including the Commons Marketplace and Hotung Café. This new change further lessens the plan’s potential, as it is nearly impossible to use all of the swipes students are forced to buy without the convenience of double swiping.

The fact that SIS hasn’t changed in years should not come as a surprise. The administration’s behavior is entirely in character: This is another prolonged ignorance of a problem that affects everyone. Given that SIS is such an important resource for students, the administration should take swift action to address its known issues.

This action should start with investment. The administration should allocate resources to TTS exclusively for rehabbing SIS. The backbone of the current version of SIS was initiated in 2013, with the site receiving updates from TTS over the years. Eleven years without any major changes is hard to justify — imagine running your iPhone on iOS 6.

Another key strategy, regardless of whether SIS gets the updates it needs, should be implementing SIS training sessions for new students. Linda Snell, the director of student and alumni services within TTS, is an avid supporter of this idea, according to an article published Feb. 14. She told the Daily in the article that TTS used to support freshmen by doing “first-year registrations in person in a computer lab.” Additionally, in-person registration for freshmen would allow students to learn about “some of the features of SIS that you may not know about right off the bat.”

There are a plethora of solutions to SIS’ numerous, well-documented problems. The administration should act without delay on student frustration and commit significant resources to addressing these problems. After all, fall registration is rapidly approaching.

Editor’s note: The article has been updated with proper attribution of the quoted interview. These comments cited in the Viewpoint were provided for a previous, unrelated article.