By Michelle Halpern
A fault with Ryerson’s outdated timetabling system has kept many students out of their chosen classes.
All returning students were required to submit their course selections just before exams in the spring.
These selections are sent to Ryerson’s department of university scheduling, and are used by each department to decide how many sections to offer in each of their courses.
The system sounds perfect because it creates classes based on demand. Ideally, everyone should have a spot in the course they desire. But it doesn’t work that way.
“Many students submit their course selections as late as June or July, after the departments have made their course decisions,” said Robert Rocca, who works in the department.
“Since students aren’t placed into courses until later in the summer, these late applicants have as much of a chance to get into courses as those who submitted their selections on time.”
The mistake has cost some students more than a few missed classes.
Barbara Januszewicz, a fourth-year public health student was forced to pay $400 on top of her regular tuition to take a continuing education course at night when all regular section of the course were full.
“It’s ridiculous. This shouldn’t be happening for the amount of money we’re paying to come here,” she said.
Ramesh Arulchelvan signed up for seven courses last spring, but his timetable only showed three.
“I handed in my course selections on time,” he said. “So I really don’t understand what happened.”
Because no priority is given to students who apply on time, someone who signed up late took the spot Arulchelvan had reserved.
“We don’t publicize this problem because we don’t want students applying late,” said Rocca. “They may not like the courses that they’re left with, but we just don’t have an ideal solution.”
The electives were the real problem. “None of them had room and I couldn’t attend classes for the first week,” Arulchelvan said. But someone finally dropped out of a history course that fit into his schedule.
But not all students are willing to wait. “I couldn’t get anything I liked so I just don’t have an elective course for next semester,” said Claudia Saikali, a second-year ITM student.
“As I understand,” she added, “your liberal courses are supposed to provide you with a supplementary education. You’re supposed to be learning something you’re interested in, and something that might be useful later on in your career.”
All Saikali wanted was to learn a language; she felt it would be a practical asset. So she went to the French and Spanish department and got in line.
“I stood in the line for close to an hour. I knew the three girls in front of me were dropping the exact same French course I wanted to take, so I knew there would be room in the class.”
Her assumption was wrong. The course had been over its enrolment capacity, so that even after three people dropped out, it was still full. Each department has the freedom to set and adjust the cap size in each of their courses.
In the case of courses such as French and Spanish, the cap is set purposely low to allow for more classroom interaction. This means that even though there may be empty seats available in the classroom, Saikali would still be denied entry.
But even in courses that do not require much student-teacher interaction, students are still denied entry to classes which have plenty of seats available.
“There’s a tricky situation we have to deal with and it involves the contracts of certain instructors,” said Rocca. Many faculty members have a clause in their contract that they will be paid for overtime if their classes have more than 44 students.
Roca’s department must also deal with classroom availability. “When you only have two classrooms on campus that can seat more than 200 people, you just can’t please everyone who wants to take a certain class,” he said.
Rocca said that increasing enrolment will force Ryerson to make a decision about the type of education it offers.
“I don’t know if it’s better to have more students and bigger classrooms, or to provide a more intimate setting and better learning environment,” he said.
Whatever it decides, Ryerson will have to act soon.
“The departments have been meeting and discussing different possibilities to deal with the double cohort next year,” Rocca said.
“The problem is, we never know how much money is available in the budget until it’s too late.”