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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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Think within the possible: How CWRU is limiting its students

My first real interaction with Case Western Reserve University’s academic system was when I was anxiously waiting for the class registration screen to load for five minutes. All I could do was hope that I clicked on the “enroll” button fast enough to secure the spots in the classes that I needed, because if I didn’t, then I wouldn’t be able to fulfill the prerequisites for the courses that I wanted to take in the following semester.

Unfortunately, I know my experience is not unique. There are too many students for too few class seats, leaving some students unable to register for the classes that they need. While this may be less of a problem for upperclassmen, who have registration priority, underclassmen are left to compete with each other and bottom feed for the few remaining class spots.

This problem is exacerbated by CWRU’s policy of determining class registration priority by the date they are expected to graduate. For first-year students, this is automatically set for four years after you arrive at CWRU, regardless of the amount of Advanced Placement or dual enrollment credit you come in with. Therefore, students with incoming credit that need to take sophomore-level classes to continue their recommended course sequence are unable to because of their disadvantaged registration date.

Confused as to why this was the case, I asked if there was any possibility to register earlier for classes if I completed enough credits to attain sophomore standing.

CWRU’s response? A variation of “you signed up for a four-year program…”

This “standardized-student” attitude toward class registration is one that CWRU often employs elsewhere, and the administration fails to see that every student’s academic needs are different. It’s also reflected in the half-baked implementation of CWRU’s new Unified General Education Requirements (UGER), which is replacing the old SAGES program. Throughout the summer, incoming first-year students were informed that there were going to be major changes to their graduation requirements, but the actual details of UGER were never released until after class registration. Ironically, the best “documentation” of UGER at that time came not from the university, but from an Observer article describing the goals of the switch and some of the changes, written by former Executive Editor Shreyas Banerjee.

The same problem applies to the now released 2024 General Bulletin, which my advisor warned might cause significant changes to my major requirements. Come class registration time, the bulletin still had not been released, and first-year students were left to plan their class schedules without knowledge of the details of their general education requirements, let alone what their major requirements were. Students could either follow the standardized advice given by advisors during their brief summer meeting or base their course planning on the aforementioned unofficial article.

In fact, as of writing this article, a full two months after first-year registration, CWRU’s own course planner—the “What-if report”—is still not fully updated to reflect the changes to the bulletin. Instead, it recognizes the new general education requirements while still keeping the old major-specific requirements, bringing severe consequences to anyone who uses it and doesn’t realize that the information is outdated. This is especially concerning given that this same broken system was recommended to me, and probably many other first-year students, to use to plan our schedules.

Of the changes to the bulletin, one especially poorly planned change was removing the option to take CSDS 132 instead of ENGR 130 to fulfill a requirement for all engineering majors. The university now forces every engineer to take ENGR 130, and recommends them to do so during their first semester, causing a severe lack of seats.

During the adviser presentation in Discover Week, one of the speakers joked that if you are not enrolled in ENGR 130, then you definitely won’t be able to take it this semester—hardly an appropriate joke considering the cost of delaying your graduation at CWRU, where scholarships typically only last up to eight semesters. Experiences like this make it clear that CWRU pushes the responsibility of their poor planning onto the students instead of actually acknowledging and fixing the issues.

Besides ENGR 130, year after year, some classes remain nearly impossible to register for because of the limited class or lab size. Sure, you could submit a permission request to try to enroll, but that is no guarantee and just pushes the burden from CWRU to the individual professors who are teaching the course. Still, some professors are kind enough to allow students to over-enroll in their classes, such as the 156-student CSDS 302 class I’m in that has an official capacity of only 80 students.

This lack of accountability is not unique to those experiences; it runs further up CWRU’s administrative hierarchy. Throughout the summer and during Discover Week, I tried to contact one of the assistant deans of undergraduate studies five times: two times through email, two times by calling the office and one time by physically going to the office.

I still have yet to receive a single direct response from them.

In contrast, President Eric Kaler made a point to immediately respond to the release of U.S. News & World Report’s 2024 University Rankings less than a day after they were released. CWRU’s administration clearly cares about its public image more than its students’ concerns. And if CWRU really cares about their ranking that much, maybe they should look to actually promote thinking beyond the possible, rather than thinking within the standard academic plan.

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