It’s definitely autumn. Shorter days, cooler air in the morning, and lots of students hurrying to or from school. I had my first day of classes today as a senior college student. Perhaps you’re not familiar with my long term experience with schools and universities. Given my appetite for learning, since 1997 I have passed through 6 universities (transferring from one to another ocasionally) and I am currently attending 3 of them at the same time. Grantham University provides long-distance education over the Internet in Computer Science. The other two are faculties of Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj Napoca, Romania. (No, it’s not pronounced “babes” meaning “hot chicks,” but “baabesh.”) One of them is European Studies Faculty, which is business studies with emphasis on European studies and economic affairs, a 4-year study program, and the other one is Economic Studies Faculty, which is business sciences, my major being computer applications for business sciences, a 4 1/2 year program.
Back to the story: first day of classes. This is the perfect example for my point in this message: lack of organization and poor management of an university. First year students block the hallways because nobody told them what to do. Their schedule of classes is already displayed, with codes for each year, major and group, but what the students don’t know is the code for their major and what group they are in. So, they can’t attend any course because they don’t know which is on their schedule. Instead, they form a loooooong line at the registrars’ doors to ask “what’s the code of my group,” but the working hours are between 11am and 2pm and the registrars are particularily busy this week with putting together admission statistics for the dean. Was it that hard to print the code identifying the year, major and group next to each student’s name on the admission list, when that list was displayed after the admission exams? One missing column in an Excel sheet and students will be keeping registrars busy for a week to request this information individually.
Next on the agenda: applying the faculty seal on the grade notebook, as proof of being a registered student. Yeah, we still carry around tiny paper notebooks which are both grade report cards and student IDs, although professors write down the grade in the student’s notebook mostly on oral examinations. Mine is blank, and it doesn’t matter one bit. Well, I couldn’t get my grade notebook marked as valid today; have to go back on Wednesday, because the faculty seal was unavailable. How is it possible to have a single seal for one dean, two assistant deans, one secretary, six registrars, one accountant and one cashier?! Can you imagine the efficiency of this team, when every paper they work with needs a seal, and they have to run to someone else’s office to borrow the seal?
What bothers me most is how the management of this institution completely ignores technology. They’ve got computers, good ones and lots of them. They have the entire building wired with a gigabit network. But computers are used as typewriters and e-mail. Student records are still filed in paper archives, and searched through manually for each tiny piece of information. It drives me crazy! Pretty websites, yet completely useless. Key information, such as the group code, is missing. The class schedule is not displayed online. Grades are not displayed online; there is a project to implement electronic grade reports, but my guess is that the programmers got bored after a few hours and abandoned it. Online, I can find my grades from semesters 1, 2 and 5 and a mistyped name after completing 6 semesters, for one faculty; at the other one, I don’t even exist. Nobody bothered to write a student guide which explains how university works and all that. Everyone must figure everything out by themselves, while wasting a lot of time.
Why should I need to stay in line for half an hour with a handwritten request for whatever document I need, if I could fill such a request electronically, have the document printed automatically and the only human intervention would be for the registrar to sign and seal it? Why do I have to go in person for a grade report, and why can’t they mail me any documents? Why don’t they use their computer science students to create the software for student database management, and replace human queues and wasted hours with electronic queues? For crying out loud, it’s the 21st century, we study about databases and information age every day yet we are uncapable to automate and improve the relationship between the faculty and the thousands of students?
Call me an engineer obsessed with efficiency and optimization, but I cannot understand why I have to waste my day waiting in line because the faculty management doesn’t want to embrace technology because that would mean firing half of the staff.