Registration snags irk students

by Craig Gustafson

On top of waiting in bookstore lines and getting to class on time, first-day-of-school stress got worse as thousands of students tried in vain to register for classes Tuesday. It turns out that a computer loophole allowed only a small number into the system.
The result: irate students and mile-long lines at registrars’ offices.
The problem was that the University’s Web registration system, which serves more than 50,000 undergraduate students on the Morris, Duluth and Twin Cities campuses, only allowed 180 users to be logged simultaneously.
Katie Theisen got her first taste of University life while sitting at a computer terminal in the Office of the Registrar in Fraser Hall. The sophomore transferred from Bethel College this semester and called the University’s registration process “a pain in the butt.”
Adding to the daunting task of orientating herself to a much larger campus, Theisen had to deal with the virtually impossible task of registering.
“Welcome to a public college,” she said sarcastically. “All I can say is: I hate computers.”
Patience Olson, an environmental studies senior, has been through the registration drill before. She said she cannot understand why adding classes keeps getting more difficult.
“It was a lot easier before,” Olson said. “I don’t like this at all,” referring to the University’s new Web registration system installed during fall semester.
PeopleSoft, a Pleasonton, California-based software firm, revamped the University’s financial aid and student records system. The new software has had several glitches; the most serious resulted in a month-long delay in financial aid disbursement late last year.
At the time, officials said the bugs in PeopleSoft would be worked out by the new year.
PeopleSoft is currently avoiding a lawsuit from Cleveland State University after that college suffered several problems from the software.
Sue Van Voorhis, departmental director of the registrar, said employees fixed minor problems with PeopleSoft over the weekend and that the software did not cause Tuesday’s difficulties.
The system collapsed at 10 a.m. Tuesday for a few minutes.
“The biggest thing that is frustrating to students is getting the busy signal,” Van Voorhis said.
She said the software will allow more users to access the system in the next few days. Today, 300 users will be able to gain access at once.
Technicians say registration would go more smoothly if users didn’t log on to the University server unnecessarily or if more people obtained nonregistration information by other means.
A telephone voice-response system is available to students wishing to check their grades. To stave off the number of people calling in or logging on, the University will send e-mail enrollment summaries to all 35,000 Twin Cities campus undergraduates by early Wednesday morning.
For those still trying to register, officials said online registration is available until midnight weekdays which is when activity is at its lowest point.
Students forced to register in person can do so from three campus locations: Fraser Hall, Coffey Hall and the student resource center in the West Bank Skyway. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at both Coffey Hall and the West Bank Skyway. Hours extend to 6 p.m. at Fraser Hall.
“We won’t kick students out at six,” Van Voorhis said. “We want to make this better for students.”

Craig Gustafson welcomes comments at [email protected]. He can also be reached (612) 627-4070 x3233.