Volume 96, Issue 61
Friday, January 17, 2003

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"New colours" at Western: A system in need of revision

Between Lines
Tait Simpson
Opinions Editor

To the students who took the drastic measure of changing their mind about even one course for the second term, the first week back would have made them think that the school had changed their official colours from white and purple to yellow and pink.

The new colours of Western were in full bloom in every faculty building. The new yellow and pink could be seen on the floors, on desks, and – more than anywhere else – in the hands of frustrated students.

The yellow and pink to which I'm referring to are placed together with a complimentary white sheet to form Western's add/drop forms. Unless you register for your courses during the summer and don't change your mind at any point, you're bound to know these tri-coloured sheets well.

They are the sheets you need to get signed by a department to let you into a class; they are the sheets you need to get signed by a department for a class which you are going to leave. Finally – sure to be most time consuming – they are the forms you need to get signed by your own faculty before being put into the magical pile that gets sent away to be processed.

Not to make this appear like another case of a student complaining about lineups – the people who get the worst of this deal are students new to the system with no expectations of waiting in line, and the poor employees who get to sort through all the completed forms. Imagine having a new stack of the yellow and pink forms piled high onto your desk each day, and then trying to decipher which courses a student wants to be enrolled in from the various scratches and crossed-out words. A day in line is one problem – a month's worth of pink slips is another much larger problem. As an employee, it might make me want to fill out my own pink slip – one with a much more permanent drop.

Is there a solution to the yellow and pink? At Queen's University, our fair rival up the road, their add/drop process is online during the add/drop period. If you want to switch sections of Economics 152b, you can do it while wearing a bathrobe from your home computer and save everyone some time. It makes sense. If there is a spot open, you pick a class up. If there isn't a spot open, you can check back later that day – the same way students check their e-mail everyday.

Obviously, lines will always be present when students are picking up classes. There will always be questions; there will always be the need for your professors to sign permission slips. What there shouldn't be a need for is the student who stands in line only to learn that they needed another signature, and are subsequently banished to the back of the line once again. At a university that prides itself on innovation, it only seems a matter of time before the basics of add/drop – the vast majority of student forms – will be moved online.

There are rumblings that the process could be online next year, but from a veteran of the three-hour social science line on the last day of add/drop, I'll believe it when I see it.

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2002 THE GAZETTE