By Tim Sullivan

Playing games is fun. The way I see it, there are few more relaxing and entertaining ways to spend a warm summer afternoon than with your friends or family and a scintillating board game. From tiddlywinks to Parcheesi to Operation, there’s nothing like a good ol’ fashioned game.

But no matter what game you’re playing, one universal rule applies: In order to succeed, you have to know the rules. Think about it – if you didn’t know the rules, you’d spend your days in a vain attempt to finish first in the Monopoly beauty pageant or angling to inherit a skunk farm.

I say this because I have been thinking a lot about how we students of Georgetown choose the classes we want to take and then register for the ones we don’t. The reason, I think, is fairly simple: Very few, if any, Georgetown undergraduates understand what they need to do to get the classes they want.

In short, we’re all playing a very, very important academic game, but under unpublished house rules that Georgetown established sometime around the Garfield administration.

For example, let’s say that as a junior English major, I want to take a 200-level English course. I indicate that it is my top priority during pre-registration in the proper manner, and don’t get into it. Now at the same time, a junior Culture and Politics major also pre-registers for the same English course, which counts for his or her major as well, and also lists it as his or her first priority. Murphy’s Law being what it is, my friend gets the course and I don’t.

Fine. I can handle losing a game by blowing a lay up or being out-thought by my opponent, but in this case, I just keep asking myself, “Why?” What mechanisms were in place that decided the outcome of this game?

So the questions I have for the university, and specifically the registrar’s office are these: How do you decide who gets what classes? Do seniors, as widely rumored, get preference over sophomores and juniors? If two majors claim the same class, who gets priority then? What are the tiebreakers? G.P.A.? School? Rank? Random chance? How much weight does the preference you give to a class hold? I could go on forever, but you get the gist: How does registration work?

This is, obviously, no trifling matter. The type and quality of the classes we take constitutes the bulk of what the degree we will leave here with will eventually mean.

But with a matter as serious as this, the solution is a relatively simple one: a modicum of transparency. Someone somewhere within this university must know how this behemoth process works. Somebody had to have written the computer program that makes these important decisions. Is it unreasonable to ask that the university share this information with the people it affects?

Publishing the method to this madness is one of many feasible steps that can be taken to improve the class selection and registration process. Every professor should be asked to post his or her syllabi online so prospective students can browse for classes before the hectic add-drop period. Academic departments need to do a better job updating their course description Web sites in time for pre-registration. The Registrar’s Web site should include a search or include a sort function that allows students to find classes that are still open after pre-registration or that fit into the time slots they have available after their other selections have been made.

None of these measures would be particularly difficult to implement, and the tangible benefits to students would be sizable to say the least.

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