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The Observer

Case Western Reserve University's independent student news source

The Observer

Case Western Reserve University's independent student news source

The Observer

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Friends and strangers combine forces to help Paul Paterson graduate

By the final semester of college, most people have a general idea of what they’ll be doing after graduating, or at the very least, they’ll have an idea of when they’ll be graduating. Senior engineering major Paul Paterson, however, came close to needing to reschedule his entire spring around one class, which could have effectively cost him thousands of dollars. His situation has caught the attention of many students who empathize with Paterson’s predicament.

Paterson’s final required course was ENGL 398 (Professional Communication for Engineers), a course offered in three sessions this semester, all of which are currently filled. Paterson was unable to register due to a hold on his account due to financial reasons.

“I ended this previous spring semester with a significant amount owed to Case,” said Paterson. “I was unable to get it paid off and have the financial hold released until one week before classes.”

Once Paterson discovered that he would be unable to register for the class, meaning that he would be unable to graduate at the end of the semester as intended, he sent a message to friends explaining the situation, and offered $200 compensation to anyone willing to drop the class for him. Fellow Delta Upsilon member Joseph Bashover started a Facebook group, “Help Paul Paterson Graduate,” and in a matter of four days, 100 people joined in his support.

“I was very surprised by the Facebook group,” said Paterson, “A large majority of the members of the group are unknown to me… I am very grateful for all the support I got from everybody.”

In his attempts to join the class, Paterson spoke with Dr. Eve McPherson, who manages all the sections of ENGL 398. Overriding the hold on enrollment proved to be difficult. Graduate teaching assistants were contractually unable to assist more than 20 students at one point, the classroom is unable to hold more than 20 students, and in addition to Paterson, a number of other students were attempting to override the class’s hold as well.

“In the end, I feel that Dr. McPherson was a great help to me and did what she could,” said Paterson. “It’s my opinion that the professors at Case to a lot to accommodate seniors, but it was unfortunate that the structure of the ENGL 398 class was so rigid.”

Help came to Paterson when junior civil engineering and English major Peter Cooke offered to drop the class. By 11 a.m. Wednesday morning, Paterson was successfully enrolled in ENGL 398.

While it is unsure how many other students on campus are in similar straits, or if any haven’t ended up as fortunate as Paterson, he speculates that the support from strangers reflects that other students have felt similar frustrations. “I think that it shows most students here at Case know what it is like to try to enroll in a class that is overfilled, overcrowded, or does not have enough sections available to students.”

Apart from what Paterson’s story may imply about the difficulties behind class registration and financial holds, it also on a more optimistic turn, shows how, as the old adage says, “You can always depend upon the kindness of strangers.”

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