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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 19, 2024

Engineers will now register for classes side by side with Arts and Sciences students

The change, announced earlier this week, addresses long-term complaints from students over missing out on important classes.

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The Science and Engineering Complex is pictured on Oct. 4, 2022.

On Monday, Tufts announced a pilot program involving new changes to the registration process for undergraduate students. Engineering students will now register two days in advance for School of Engineering and select Arts and Sciences courses required for their degree progress — mostly those under the math, chemistry, biology and physics and astronomy departments —  but will register for other classes simultaneously with Arts and Sciences students in their class year at randomly assigned times. Students pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts and those enrolled in a combined degree program will register on the same day as their class cohort, but at the earliest registration time available.

This marks a shift from the previous registration process, in which all engineering and School of Museum of Fine Arts combined-degree students registered for all classes one day prior to Arts and Sciences students of any class year.

“A significant increase in interest in STEM disciplines at Tufts has occurred at a rate that out-paced the growth of introductory STEM courses at Tufts,” Chris Swan, dean of undergraduate education and an engineering professor, wrote in an email to the Daily. “This has contributed to a bottleneck for students interested in STEM, both in SOE as well as A&S. The new registration process seeks to alleviate the bottleneck, although we recognize that this is only part of the solution.”

An email sent to undergraduate students on Monday said that the registration changes “​​will address student and faculty concerns with the existing model and increase equity in access to courses across all three undergraduate populations, while preserving priority access for SOE and SMFA students for those courses essential to their degree progress.”

According to Samuel Thomas, professor and dean of academic affairs at the School of Arts and Sciences, the revised process was intended to make registration more equitable for all Arts and Sciences and Engineering undergraduate students and address the challenges unique to each degree program.

One of the primary drivers of this pilot has been to reduce the inequities between students in different schools to accessing courses, while recognizing the differences in flexibility that students have in navigating the different curricula,” Thomas wrote in an email to the Daily. “Students in the School of Engineering have a much more rigid curricular plan and students in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts face logistical difficulties due to commuting to the Fenway and studio schedules, which requires special consideration.”

Thomas also mentioned that student feedback has been the driving force behind these changes, exemplified through discussions between the administration and the Tufts Community Union Senate.

“For a number of years, we have heard from students about dissatisfaction with the scale of the registration priority that some groups of students have had over others and these changes are inspired by that feedback,” he said.

Junior Nessren Ourdyl, education committee chair of the TCU Senate, explained the Senate’s role in providing student insight into the process.

“[The administrators] proposed what [the changes] would look like and we kind of gave initial reactions and questions that we had,” Ourdyl said. “I think that helped smooth out the presentation process of how this would be communicated. We also just asked some clarifying questions that we had as students. They were really just looking for feedback.”

Ourdyl believes that care was put into these changes and has confidence that the changes will have an overall positive impact on students.

“I’m hopeful,” she said. “I think it’s going to have its kinks to smooth out, but I’m hopeful and optimistic that this will be a good change for students in their course registration experience. I think it will help smooth out some of the other issues involving overenrollment and mitigate a lot of things within the Tufts academic experience.” 

Catherine Freudenreich, professor and biology department chair, explained in an email to the Daily that the previous registration system had resulted in many Arts and Sciences STEM students being unable to secure spots in introductory courses required for timely progress toward their degrees. Freudenreich believes that the revision to the registration process will assist in reducing this issue for biology majors and Arts and Sciences students in general.

“This will be very helpful for Biology majors who want to get into high demand Biology courses and Biology courses needed for the major in a timely manner,” she said.

For the Department of Computer Science — which offers its majors in both the Schools of Engineering and Arts and Sciences — the change could alleviate the anxiety that Arts and Sciences computer science students feel over losing class slots to engineers. “Based on guidance from the CS faculty, the vast majority of CS courses, including CS 11, will not be part of priority registration,” Thomas wrote.

Vedant Modi, a sophomore studying computer science in the School of Arts and Sciences, explained how these changes could allow non-engineering students to pursue preferred classes.

“I could foresee this benefitting [Arts and Sciences computer science students] because [they could] end up in CS elective classes that are necessarily more fun,” Modi said. “I have some friends who … ended up in elective classes that they don’t really want to take, and they don’t really like any of them. And then it’s sort of an extra stress that really shouldn’t be there because the focus should be on the core classes and not some elective class that you aren’t interested in.”

According to Thomas, registration times will begin at 10 a.m., with 300 students enrolling every 30 minutes instead of the original 15 minutes. After registration concludes, the administration will collect student feedback regarding the new modifications and use it to continue improving the course enrollment process.

This is a pilot and we will be soliciting feedback about what aspects of registration have improved and any concerns after registration concludes,” Thomas said. “We will use that information to inform how we approach first-year registration in the summer, as well as registrations in future semesters.”