Now that I started going back to school this Semester, I get to experience the frustrations and headaches of student trying to navigate the bureaucracy of a large university. Administrators at Penn State wonder why the branch campuses aren’t doing so hot, while tuition has grown 50% in only a few years time. My biggest issue is the lack of night classes at all campuses, but particularly branch campuses.
The largest potential market for students in most of the branch campus regions are part time students who work full time. Now you would think that because of this potentially large and lucrative market, many classes would be offered at night to cater to the working student. Unfortunately, many of the classes I need to take are only offered during the day.
The easiest way to schedule is to use elion, a web based campus service interface . When I first came to the university in 1998, I was really impressed with elion. The UI is a little rough, but what you could do with it in 1998 was really ahead of its time. Penn State is consistently an innovator at developing and adopting pragmatic technologies to handle services for its large student population.
So I logged in to elion a few minutes ago, but now my session is expired. According to the elion site, I need to physically close my browser in order to login again. Now, I use quite a few websites that have strict security requirements, but why would I need to close my browser? I can only assume that this is a legacy requirement for an outdated browser. Clicking on the “Exit,” “elion Homepage,” “My elion homepage” links do absolutely nothing. I really did not want to close my browser because of other work I had in various tabs. I manually put in the homepage address for elion and was able to login again.
So I’m logged in now and I want to schedule a course for the spring semester. So obviously I would click the “Schedule a course” link. So I browse the 52, yes 52 links on the left hand frame, but there is no link to schedule a class. If you want to schedule a class in elion, click the “Drop/Add” button. I find myself having an Andy Rooney moment, where I need to click the DROP button to ADD a class.
So I click the “Drop/Add” link, but I receive the following message:
“A University official has placed a hold on your registration. University policy requires that the office placing the hold notify you of this action. You should contact that office directly. If you need additional assistance, contact the Registrar’s office at your campus.”
Wow, isn’t that descriptive! Instead of giving me any information about why I cannot schedule, elion simply tells my to contact the registrar’s office at my campus, without giving me any additional information. Seeing how we do have an organizational directory, it wouldn’t take that much code to look up which campus I’m at and display some contact information.
So I hunt down the number for the Delaware Valley campus registrar’s office and get a hold of the office via phone. It turns out that University Health services has put a hold on my account do to a lack of an immunization history.
First off, the fact that the health services department can go placing holds on a student’s ability to register is simply insane. Secondly, I was a full time student four years ago, they should have detailed records on my immunization. Thirdly, I’m a full time employee at Penn State. I’m just as much of a health risk as an employee, so any employee can go around infecting the campus, but if they happen to enroll in a degree program they must have a full immunization record? How is that safe?
So I hunt down the number to call for immunization holds at the University health office and after 10 different attempts to speak to a human being I get the following message every time:
“Thanks for calling the immunization requirement office, our office is experiencing a high volume of calls. Business hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 5. If you received this message during business hours, we are assisting another person. Please call back at another time, sorry for the inconvenience.” Click!
Nothing makes me madder that a phone system that provides no method of holding or leaving a message. Is hanging up on people a proper way to treat a high volume of calls? On my 17th attempt to get through, I finally talk to someone at immunization. Apparently, because I moved to degree status, they need a full immunization record. Non-degree students, staff, and faculty have the green light to infect the student population.