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A report on round one of registration for Spring 2023 (#1209)

Topics/tags: Registration, data, barely edited

Disclaimer: I spent enough time gathering data that I decided not to edit this. Please excuse the infelicities and inaccuracies.

Round one of registration for Spring 2023 is now completed. Our Registrar is hard at work cutting students for classes. Or perhaps she’s completed that work already and is just waiting to release the cuts. We shall see.

Since we have a brand new registration process, I thought I’d look at what happened in round 1. That may help me (and others) better advise students in the future. It may also provide insights on how our process is working.

As you may recall, I consider our new round one of registration an exercise in game theory with incomplete knowledge. That is, students can see the registration in individual classes and they know registration priorities for those classes, but they can’t see the distribution of registrations for each class. If you are not top priority, do you risk staying in an over-enrolled section or do you try to switch to another section that is not yet over-enrolled?

I wasn’t keeping close track of the enrollments, but I did gather data from about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and about 11:00 p.m. During that time …

  • Two students added section 1 of BIO-150-01, Introduction to Biological Inquiry with Lab, putting enrollment at 24, exactly at the cap. I expect that those two students worried that they would not get the course in round 2.
  • One student moved out of CHM-129L-02, General Chemistry Lab. That class is close to capacity (it went from 22/24 to 21/24), but I expect that change reflected a feeling that I can take another lab. Strangely, no corresponding add was there.
  • One student moved out of CSC-151-03, Functional Problem Solving with Lab, transforming the class enrollment from 9/24 to 8/24. I expect that the student felt there was enough room in that section that they could try something else. Stay tuned for other info on CSC-151.
  • The two sections of CSC-207, Object-Oriented Problem Solving, Data Structures, and Algorithms, saw changes. CSC-207-01 went from 19/24 to 22/24. CSC-207-02 went from 34/24 to 33/24. It looks like one student swapped sections and two more added CSC-207.
  • The two sections of CSC-211, Computer Organization and Architecture), also changed. Section one went from 10/24 to 8/24. Section two went from 11/24 to 1`3/24. It looks like two students swapped sections. Of course, other things could have happened.
  • CSC-312-01, Programming Language Implementation, went from 26/24 to 27/24. Perhaps that reflects a change associated with one of the 211 students. That is, they may have added 312 and then swapped their 211 section to permit 312.
  • CSC-324-01, Software Design and Development, went from 31/16 to 3/16
  • ECN-280-01, Microeconomic Analysis, went from 26/25 to 27/25. A late-enrolling student?
  • ECN-295-02, Industrial Organization, went from 27/25 to 29/25. I’ll need an economist to explain that one to me. Late-adding students?
  • ENG-205-01, The Craft of Fiction, went from 15/15 to 16/15.
  • HIS-342-01, Stalinism, went from 5/12 to 6/12. Does this represent a late-enrolling senior?
  • HIS-382-01, Modern classics of Historical Writing, went from 2/12 to 3/12. Perhaps the same senior?
  • MUS-219-01, Electronic Music, went from 12/12 to 13/12. I expect a student realized that enrolling in round one was the only way to get the course. I’ll admit that I’m surprised that Electronic Music did not over-enroll by more than that.
  • PHE-100-32, Volleyball, went from 2/30 to 3/30. Did a student realize that they could enroll in one more credit?
  • PHI-101-01, Logic, went from 5/25 to 6/25. Perhaps they read my prior musing.
  • PHI-232-03 Philosophy for Life, went from 8/25 to 9/25. I’m glad students are adding philosophy in round one. I look forward to a return to the days when Intro Philosophy was one of the most popular courses.
  • PHI-254-01, Metaphysics, went from 5/22 to 6/22.
  • PHI-264-01, Political Theory II, went from 7/22 to 8/22. This course is also listed as POL-264-01, which, unsurprisingly saw the same change.
  • POL-319-01, Advanced Constitutional Law, went from 18/15 to 19/15. I’ve run out of innovative comments.
  • PSY-113-02, Introduction to Psychology with Lab went from 15/26 to 16/26.
  • PSY-225-01, Introduction to Research Methods, went from 28/25 to 29/25.
  • PSY-233-01, Developmental Psychology with Lab, went from 11/25 to 12/25.
  • PSY-248-01, Psychopathology & Clinical Science, went from 35/25 to 36/25. We’ll chat more about this course in a bit.
  • SOC-295-03, ST: Sociology of Robots and AI, went from 16/25 to 17/25.
  • SST-110-01, Comparative Herbstalism [1], went from 29/10 to 30/10.

What did we learn from that? I think we learned that not many students tried to change their registration on Saturday afternoon. So much for game theory. We also learned that not many students registered at the last minute. I think that’s a good thing. However, I know that some students had not registered by Saturday and that our Registrar was working hard to remind them to register. I would have liked to see more additions in that time.

I also learned that I have trouble reading these numbers. I’m used to looking at enrollments after students have enrolled in four courses, not two. So many of these courses look like they have too many spaces! I also struggle with reading enrollment/capacity rather than slots-available/capacity, as our system typically shows it.

Let’s move to the numbers that most people are waiting for … The over-enrollment data.

In the lead is section 1 of the legendary SST-110, Comparative Herbalism [2], which has 28 students and a capacity of 10. This year, Prof. Lewis even added a second section. That section is at 12/10. I’m intrigued by the mismatch in enrollments, since both meet at the same time; section 1 for the first half of the semester, section 2 for the second half. If it were me, I would have been keeping track and would have switched to section 2 for the higher odds. Perhaps students will learn that in the future.

In second place is CSC-324-01, Software Design and Development, with 31/16. I’m not sure what happened to the other student I had listed as enrolled earlier. There is no other section of CSC-324, so many of these students will have to find another class. Fortunately, there are spaces open in CSC-211. There are also spaces open in CSC-395-01, but that has CSC-324 as a prereq. I believe our plan is to allow 20 students, rather than 16, into CSC-324. But that still leaves us with eleven or so who need to find another course.

If you’re wondering why we didn’t offer two sections of CSC-324, it’s because we don’t have the staffing to do so this year. We really should offer three sections each year if we’re graduating 60 majors each year.

In third place is STA-209-04, Applied Statistics, with 40 students enrolled and a capacity of 26. It’s overenrolled by 14. Fortunately, the other three sections have lots of slots left: twenty slots in section 1, twenty in section 2, and twenty-one in section three. I’d normally say Wow, that’s a lot of open slots. But I expect that many students are planning to enroll in round three. Some of the cut students may even enroll in round two.

Next up is CHM-222L-03, Organic Chemistry II Lab, with 33/20. Section 4 of CHM-222L is also over-enrolled, with 28/20. Fortunately, there are exactly 21 slots left in sections 1 and 2 (12 available in section 1, 9 in section 2). Why are sections 3 and 4 more highly enrolled? Probably because they are on Tuesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon, respectively. Section 1 is Monday afternoon, which makes in conflict with a lot of MWF afternoon classes. Section 2 is Tuesday morning.

We’re going to skip ahead a bit to CHM-222, Organic Chemistry II w/Lab. Note that in this case, the with Lab means that you have to enroll in the lab separately. Sometimes, with Lab means the lab is included in the course. Sections 2 and 3 of Organic II are over-enrolled by 9 students each, with enrollments of 33/24. Section 1 only has six slots available. In past years, the Chemistry department would have balanced the sections and then allowed them to over-enroll. I have no idea what happens this year.

Returning to our in-order list, we have CSC-151-01, Functional Problem Solving with Lab. In this case, the with Lab means that the lab is integrated. Anyway, the enrollment is 36/24. Fortunately, our other two sections have lots of slots available. Section 2 has six students enrolled and section 3 has eight. I really don’t understand this enrollment; we usually fill 151 in the spring.

Also over-enrolled by 12 is ENV-120-01, Environmental Challenges and Responses, a one-credit course. It has 22/10. Who gets cut? Let’s see … cutting is completely random. Yay! I suppose ENV-120 isn’t required for any major or concentration.

PSY-248-01, Psychopathology & Clinical Science, is over-enrolled by eleven at 36/25. I see that Psych majors are the top priority. I assume most of the students enrolled are Psych majors. It looks like there are still slots available in other 200-level courses for those students.

Also over-enrolled by 11 is STA-230-01, Introduction to Data Science, at 29/18. Fortunately, the other section is at 4/18, so all the students cut in found one can add the course in round two. Or so I hope. I suppose that if second-years are cut, third-years and seniors cut from other courses might take the remaining slots. I guess that’s something else we’ll learn.

BCM-262L-03, Introduction to Biological Chemistry Lab, is over-enrolled by ten, at 22/12. This one is Thursday afternoons. Section 3 (Thursday mornings) is at 9/12. Section 4 (Friday afternoons) is at 8/12. Section 1 (Tuesday afternoons) is at 4/12. Well, that violates my theory about lab enrollments from above. Now I have no idea what’s going on. I wish I knew what course BCM-262 normally pairs with.

Also over-enrolled by ten is BIO-340-01, Aquatic Biology with Lab, at 22/12. Where do the other 300-level Bio classes stand? BIO-345-01, Advanced Genetics with Lab, is at 8/18. Strange. That course normally over-enrolls. BIO-363-01, Neurobiology with Lab, is at 16/12. BIO-365-01, Microbiology with Lab, Microbiology with Lab_ is at 17/18. BIO-375-01, Principles of Pharmacology, is at 17/12. BIO-380-01, Molecular Biology with Lab, is at 3/12. Another surprisingly low enrollment. BIO-395-01, Special Topic: Cell and Molecular Biology with Lab is at 7/12.

Our final double-digit over-enrollment is SOC-285-01, Contemporary Sociological Theory, at 28/18. That course has a fairly straightforward policy: Keep Soc majors. After that, I assume they cut randomly. As I said in the earlier musing, departments have very different approaches to cut/keep policies.

Now that we’re down to single-digit over-enrollments, I’m switching to lists.

Over-enrolled by nine.

  • BIO-252-03, Organisms, Evolution, and Ecology with Lab, at 33/24. Section 2 has seven available slots. Section 1 has eleven. Students who are cut should be able to enroll in round two. Priorities? Keep Bio majors. Then undeclared (i.e., prospective majors). Then Environmental studies concentrators. Then cut randomly.
  • CHM-222-02, Organic Chemistry II w/lab, at 33/24. We’ve discussed this before.
  • CHM-222-03, Organic Chemistry II w/lab, at 33/24. Ditto.
  • CSC-207-02, Object-Oriented Problem Solving, Data Structures, and Algorithms [3], also at 33/24. The other section is exactly at capacity. What’s the priority structure? Keep previously cut [4]. Keep CS majors. Keep undeclared students. Keep second-year students. Keep Statistics concentrators.

Over-enrolled by eight.

  • BCM-262-01, Introduction Biological Chemistry with Lab, at 32/24. We’ve discussed this already.
  • CHM-222L-04, Organic Chemistry II Lab, at 32/24. Also discussed earlier, but not at the same time as Biological Chemistry [5].
  • MAT/CSC-208-01, Discrete Structures, at 28/20. This over-enrolled in the fall, too. I think there are currently 24/20 students enrolled. It looks like we need three sections each year. But, um, staffing.

Over-enrolled by seven.

  • CSC-301-01, Analysis of Algorithms [6], at 27/20. We filled two sections in the fall. We can really only offer three sections each year. There are a few slots in CSC-341 and a few in CSC-211. But CSC-301 is better for third-year students, who rely on the course for internship interviews [7,8].

Over-enrolled by six.

  • ART-134-01, Drawing, at 21/15. I’m intrigued that Studio Art has carefully laid out the class-year distribution for this class: 1st year (7), 2nd year (4), 3rd year (3), Senior (1). I wonder how that affects cuts. Beyond class year, the priorities are to keep Studio Art majors, keep Art History majors, keep Previously Cut students, keep Neuroscience concentrators, and keep undeclared students.

Over-enrolled by five.

  • ART-111-02, Introduction to the Studio, at 20/15. See the notes for Drawing above. Section 01 also has slots available. However, it’s at the less convenient time of MWF 8:00-10:50 a.m.
  • BIO-375-01, Principles of Pharmacology with Lab, at 17/12. Mentioned earlier.
  • ECN-295-02, Special Topic: Industrial Organization, at 30/25.
  • PSY-225-01, Research Methods, at 30/25. This course is essential for Psych majors. How does Psych prioritize? Unsurprisingly, the first priority is Psych majors. The second priority is previously cut students, in the order "seniors [9], then third-years, then second-years then first-years. Can there really be previously-cut first-years? After the previously cut students are the Policy Studies concentrators. At least I think that’s what PST stands for. Then undeclared students, with a priority to undeclared second-year students over undeclared first-year students. Then other declared majors in order by class year, from senior to first year. I’m surprised that undeclared students don’t have higher priority. After all, they are prospective majors.

Over-enrolled by four.

  • BIO-363-01, Neurobiology with Lab, at 16/12.
  • CSC-312-01, Programming Language Implementation, at 28/24. I’m troubled by this class for many reasons. A 300-level class shouldn’t really be capped at 24. It’s also a two-credit course for historical reasons, but the instructor is allowing students to do a plus-two to make it a four-credit course. I think most students plan the four-credit option. That’s a lot of uncompensated work. I suppose the four students cut from the course can take CSC-395-01, which has some open slots and also counts as a CS elective.
  • PHE-100-19, Rock Climbing, at 11/7. This over-enrollment is important for me to remember: Some PE courses will over-enroll, so it’s necessary to include them in round 1.
  • POL-319-01, Advanced Constitutional Law, at 19/15. I’m not going to hypothesize what students will take instead. But I am interested in the priorities, since I assume most of the students in the course have taken ConLaw. It’s the natural choice: Political science majors, then seniors, then third-years, etc.
  • THD-195-01,Special Topic: Costume Design for Stage, at 12/8. It’s nice to see strong interest in a Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies [10] course. I hope it’s a sign of prospective majors.

Over-enrolled by three. That’s right, we’re nearing the end. My comments are shrinking too.

  • CHM-210L-01, Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry Lab, 19/16.
  • CSC-161-03, Imperative Problem Solving w/lab, 27/24. Section 01 has twelve slots. Section 2 is at capacity.
  • ECN-280-01, Microeconomic Analysis, 28/25.
  • MAT/SST-115-01, Introduction to Statistics, 31/28. I remember when we used to have multiple sections of MAT-115. However, most students who took MAT-115 now take STA-209.
  • NRS-250L-01, Neuroscience Lab, 19/16. The other lab has room for three students. Unfortunately, it’s on Friday afternoons.
  • PHE-100-05, Bowling, 15/12. Damn. I wanted to audit this. I should encourage students to enroll early in the future, too.

Over-enrolled by two.

  • ECN-282-01, Macroeconomic Analysis at 27/25. Micro and macro over-enrolled by a few. I wonder what effect that has on prospective (and declared) majors. CS has a one course for everyone before two for some students (with a few exceptions) policy. I wonder if Econ’s is similar. And I wonder how well the Registrar is able to implement that policy.
  • MUS-219-01, Electronic Music at 14/12. I expected this to over-enroll by more. Perhaps it’s just that few people need the course, but many want it.
  • POL/PST-220-01, Foundations of Policy Analysis at 27/25.
  • SST-110-02, Comparative Herbalism at 12/10. Prof. Lewis is already teaching two sections of this course. I don’t think she can add a third section.
  • STA-395-01, Special Topic Intro to ML at 26/24. I assume this provides credit for the Math major. It appears to have no priority policy. Maybe an ML system will choose the students to cut.

Over-enrolled by one.

  • CHM-129-02, General Chemistry w/lab at 26/25.
  • ENG-205-01, The Craft of Fiction at 16/15.
  • ENG-385-01, Writing Seminar: Fiction at 16/15. Dean has two over-enrolled courses. Is anyone surprised?
  • MAT-133-03, Calculus II at 33/32.

You might think I’m done. But I’m not. For completeness, I’m also listing the courses that are at capacity,

  • ANT/SOC-291-01, Methods of Empirical Investigation at 18/18.
  • BIO-150-01, Introduction to Biological Inquiry w/lab at 24/24.
  • BIO-365L-01, Microbiology Lab at 10/10.
  • CHM-363L-02, Physical Chemistry I Lab at 12/12.
  • CSC-161-02, Imperative Problem Solving w/lab at 24/24.
  • CSC-207-01, Object-Oriented Problem Solving, Data Structures, and Algorithms at 24/24.
  • ECN-286-01, Econometrics at 20/20.

And there we have it.

What have we learned from all this? Our Registrar will have to deal with 294 cuts, if I count correctly [11]. Some may be easy. For example, random cutting from Comparative Herbalism probably won’t affect students getting at least one class. Others may be more complicated. How do you cut someone from a lab without cutting them from the corresponding course? Or vice versa? I look forward to hearing what people discover.

I’ll admit that, as I look at the data, I find myself increasingly concerned that while this process treats students equally, it doesn’t treat them equitably. Students in some majors (e.g., Biology or CS) have to register for the courses in their major in round one or they will never get them. That decreases their opportunity to get interesting but not-strictly-necessary courses. Students in other majors can be confident that they’ll get the required upper-level courses, so they can select those special courses in round one. I hope Curriculum Committee and the Registrar’s office will find a way to address this inequity as well as other problems faculty and students identify.

I look forward to seeing what happens in rounds 2 and 3. I may even try to report on those rounds a day-by-day basis. For example, I can look at what courses fill after seniors finish their round two, then after third-years, and so on and so forth. Let me know if there are other issues you’d like me to consider.

Postscript: If you want to gather the data yourself, I recommend downloading the spreadsheet of course information, splitting the Seats Available / Scheduled Capacity column, and then sorting by the Seats Available field. You need to download the sheet after the Registrar’s office has restored the normal capacities. If you download it earlier, you’ll have to do some other calculations, too.

I’m also happy to send you my spreadsheet if you ask nicely.

[1] Perhaps Comparative Herbalism.

[2] Now with an official course number, rather than SST-195.

[3] Probably with Lab, even though we don’t get lab teaching credit.

[4] Really? Wow, that’s nice of us.

[5] I was going to write Biochem, but I remembered that my colleagues in Biological Chemistry don’t like that term.

[6] I keep calling this Algorithm Analysis. And the course is really more than just analysis. It’s design, analysis, and implementation of algorithms. For the computer scientists out there, it’s a CLRS-style course, even though not all of us use CLRS.

[7] That’s why we have two sections in the fall.

[8] I don’t like the standard design and implement this algorithm interviews for a lot of reasons. For example, they are inequitable. They are, however, the most common approach in the industry.

[9] Listed as 4th here.

[10] Is that ambiguous? Does Studies modify just Performance, or also Theatre and Dance?

[11] More precisely, if I got Excel to count correctly.

Version 1.0 of 2022-11-06.