UMD SGA pushes for earlier class registration for double-major and dual-degree students

Matthew Ober, an arts and humanities representative, debates with other Student Government Association members during the virtual meeting on Dec. 2, 2020. (Lyna Bentahar/For The Diamondback)

The University of Maryland’s SGA passed a bill Wednesday advocating for earlier class registration dates for double-major and double-degree students after more than an hour and a half of debate.

The bill calls on the university to offer students with double majors or dual degrees a two- or three-day head start to register for classes over other students with the same number of credits. The exact details of the bill are subject to change after negotiations with the registrar’s office.

The vote split the legislature, winning out 19-11, an uncommon divisive vote. Opponents of the bill cited a number of concerns they felt the bill hadn’t addressed, including how it could harm single-degree students and students with financial needs.

Matthew Ober, the bill’s sponsor and arts and humanities representative, was inspired to write the bill from his own experience as a flute performance and information science major. He often met with other students who had double majors or dual degrees about the difficulty of registering for major requirements.

Ten students submitted comments in favor of the bill. When classes fill up, they told the body, it can set their academic plans back by a semester or more.

Ober cited John Hopkins University as having a similar policy. The opposition to the bill surprised him, he said.

“Everybody that I have come across and spoken to previously had a very similar response in having a more flexible schedule,” Ober said. “It never really occurred to me that there would be a bunch of people who may have differing opinions.”

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During the deliberations, legislators questioned whether priority registration for students with two majors would disadvantage students with single degrees or those without AP or IB credits. They suggested that freshmen who come in with college credits are more likely to commit to double majors or dual degrees, but they didn’t provide explanations as to why that could happen.

Shiva Vijayaverl, representative of the Leonardtown community, was especially reluctant to back the bill without data that would confirm that it did not affect single major students.

“I’d urge all members of this body to wait and truly consider the ramifications of such new policies without any further studies,” Vijayaverl said.

Sarina Maini, who represents the university’s international students, also contested the bill out of concern that it might disadvantage international students on the basis that they do not have access to AP credits in their countries.

Ober and Claire Niggel, behavioral and social sciences representative, disagreed that the argument was relevant to priority registration for double majors, saying that Maini and other opponents of the bill were discussing the inherent issues of credit-based registration that the bill didn’t cover.

“It just so happens that our credit-based system isn’t great, which is maybe an initiative that we should take up at a later time,” Niggel said. “But I don’t think that’s the fault of this bill.”

Ober added near the end of the debate that the “bill doesn’t have anything that has to do with pre-college credits.”

With the bill passed, students will now meet with the registrar’s office to push for the bill to become university policy. In the meantime, Ober wants to continue working with the 11 legislators who voted against the bill to give them better confidence in the Student Government Association’s decision.

“I’m really enthusiastic about it because I personally believe that [this issue] is something that hasn’t really been communicated a lot in the past,” Ober said. “I want to get the ball rolling.”

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