Registration hinders VMA students

by Beacon Staff • April 25, 2007

Chair of Visual and Media Arts Department Michael Selig sent out an e-mail April 6, three days after registration started, to the students in his department in an attempt to remedy the shortage of courses within the department.,Students looking forward to a fall semester filled with specialized knowledge in the department of Visual and Media Arts (VMA) have found registration more difficult than usual.

Chair of Visual and Media Arts Department Michael Selig sent out an e-mail April 6, three days after registration started, to the students in his department in an attempt to remedy the shortage of courses within the department. The message instructed them to reply to him with their course requests, their current schedule and the non-film related classes they would drop, as well as a degree audit.

All students were required to register for at least one class by April 16 in order to avoid Emerson's late registration fee.

Film major Stephen Marsh was unable to register for any of the classes he needs in order to graduate on time in the spring of 2008. Marsh was told to register for any four classes that were open and e-mail Selig with his other requests. It was more difficult for Marsh since he transferred to Emerson last semester.

"It gets complicated because I just transferred here," Marsh said "If they look at my degree audit they're evaluating me with literally only 36 credits and a 0.00 GPA because my current grades aren't in yet."

When aiding frustrated students, the easiest option is to over enroll a class, usually by two or three students according to registrar Dr. William DeWolf.

"If it's possible to over-enroll, that's what will happen," he said.

Although the administration is willing to over-enroll, it cannot accommodate large amounts of interest. In those cases, new sections have to be opened and with them, another set of problems.

"We will do whatever we can to open these new sections," Selig said, "but space, equipment and good instructors have to be found to do so."

The department has added nine classes from last fall's lineup in order to accommodate the growing interest of students: Digital Filmmaking, Directing Actors, Cinematography, Writing the Feature Film and Editing, according to Selig.

Selig said the problem of insufficient classes doesn't affect all of the department's students, with only roughly 5 percent of students, about 80 in total, encountering problems when they register.

"In past semesters, we have been able to get students into all of the classes they need, and most, if not all, of the classes they want," Selig said.

According to Eric Schaefer, an associate professor in the VMA department who is assisting Selig with the schedule, issues that have arisen are a result of a major departmental curriculum change.

"It's a bump in the road as we get the new one in place," said Schaefer

Dr. DeWolf, worked with Selig on his attempts to help students but felt that some of the students were a bit stubborn.

"Where most of the issue comes is when the students say that they can't get the course that they need," DeWolf said. "Often times there are three classes that will fulfill that requirement. They just want to take the class that they want to take."

Selig has also run into the issue of want versus need along with underqualified students.

"I have not done a complete review of the requests, but a cursory look yesterday indicated that about half of the requests are for courses students should not be taking yet," he said.

According to the department some students lack either the required classes or are attempting to take classes out of sequence.

"Some students don't have the prerequisites done," Schaefer said. "Some of it's a matter of sequencing, students should take basic classes first. They need to get them out of the way before you start taking the upper level classes like editing and so on."

But according to Selig, the college is doing the most that it can to help students get the classes they want.

"I know of no other college that goes to the lengths we are going now to help students who are closed out of classes," Selig said in an e-mail to The Beacon.

"He [Selig] is personally going through all of the degree audits of every student that e-mailed him," said Schaefer. "The students getting a good deal more attention than they would anywhere else."

DeWolf said that the blame is to be shared between the students and their departments.

"Every time a student logs in it is recorded and I look at them," he said. "Sometimes students forget or don't do it. Ninety-nine percent of the cases are the students' fault."

Freshman film major Amanda Newcomb said she was not able register for any film classes for next semester. Her attempts to get into Writing for the Short Subject were foiled because of her late registration time, even after the school opened up additional spots in the class.

"Once I found out there were more spots, I checked the page constantly," Newcomb said. "The spots were filled up within an hour."

However, the addition of more course sections come with their own set of difficulties. Professors have to be found to teach the classes, along with equipment for production classes. The VMA department usually hires between one and three new faculty members each year according to Selig.

"The students who have contacted the department about registration woes should be told about their status before classes end for the spring semester," said Schaefer.

However, all of the efforts of the college made no difference to Marsh who would not have been able to graduate on time unless he got the exact classes he asked for.

"It made it pretty easy to be like, I'll just save my money and go home," he said. "My little community college back home was run with so much more competence and they have less money."