College must prioritise fixing the annual timetable shambles

Issues in Trinity’s administration this year have caused chaos pertaining to students’ employment and living situations

The annual timetable shambles is a well-known phenomenon among Trinity students and one that only seems to be getting worse as the years pass. Year after year students’ hopes of receiving their full timetables in a timely manner are dashed. These hopes are often replaced with panicked emails to Academic Registry (AR) and their respective schools in an effort to organise what should have been organised for them.

These administrational flaws are always disappointing. However, in the current times, with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, it is even more concerning. In a year where third-level students have been consistently left in the dark, college timetables should have offered some clarity and provided some structure to students. Instead they have only created more panic. The technical issues with the launch of the Senior Fresh online module enrolment was handled in a particularly disappointing way. This was made worse by the almost complete radio silence from both AR and many of the Arts, Humanities and Social Science departments, in response to student’s complaints and concerns over their timetables.

“In a year where third-level students have been consistently left in the dark, college timetables should have offered some clarity and provided some structure to students.”

However, the Senior Fresh students are not the only ones who appear to have been affected by disorganisation with their timetables. Many other students have expressed concerns over timetabling, with issues such as multiple compulsory modules being scheduled for the same time. To make matters worse, when these students have made contact with AR they are often late to reply, if they reply at all. With all this panic and uncertainty, it is abundantly clear that Trinity must prioritise fixing this annual problem imminently.

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, third-level students have spent months in a limbo of uncertainty as to how much face-to-face teaching they will have, if any. The stress of this uncertainty has been unrelenting for them. This year, more than ever before, students were dependent on knowing exactly what their academic year would look like and having this knowledge in a reasonable amount of time before term began. On this front the college has failed them spectacularly.

Numerous technical difficulties forced the launch of the Senior Fresh module enrolment back from September 21 to 25, a mere seventy-two hours before lectures were due to begin. On September 25, after many delays, there was further chaos created by a “human error” that meant the launch was pushed from 11am to 11.30am. This resulted in a flood of panicked texts into group chats with students trying to ascertain whether it was a personal issue for them or a site-wide problem with the launch. This left the students sitting anxiously at their laptops waiting for the portal to start working. As they were told modules were to be assigned on a first-come-first-serve basis, most were frantically waiting to ensure they got the modules they wanted. The first-come-first-serve approach completely disregarded students with poor internet connections or unreliable laptops.

Furthermore, at the end of September, the Junior Fresh online module enrolment fell into chaos when the launch time was pushed back from 11am to 2pm. It’s undoubtedly clear that the technical issues with timetables and enrolment from the previous week were not resolved over the weekend. This added stress undoubtedly creates a very negative first impression for incoming freshers who have just been through the many stresses of Leaving Cert results and CAO offers.

“An organised release of timetables could have alleviated some stress for these students and allowed them to make an informed choice about their accommodation needs for the year.”

There are several reasons that this delay in timetables and persistent scheduling issues have concerned students. One of the most prominent relates to accommodation. With the uncertainty surrounding exactly how much face-to-face teaching students will receive this year, many international students and students from outside Dublin have had to make expensive accommodation decisions while oblivious as to how the situation will progress. For the Irish students outside of Dublin, who do not need to quarantine upon arrival, many are still wondering when and if they should move back up to Dublin and where they will live if they are forced to do so. An organised release of timetables could have alleviated some stress for these students and allowed them to make an informed choice about their accommodation needs for the year. However, the way this whole situation has played out has only bred more uncertainty for them. It is absolutely imperative that college prioritises preventing this panic from happening again for the sake of these students.

Yet another source of concern for students is the security of part-time employment and their timetables. As the country is about to enter the second recession this generation of students have lived through, it is more important in the current climate than ever before for many students to have a form of part-time income. With the confusion surrounding timetables, students have been unable to tell their employers if and when they can work and therefore many of their jobs have been placed at risk. After working over the summer many students are currently asking their employers for less hours, however, many employers will require multiple weeks notice for change of hours. Timetabling has been left so late that it will be difficult to give their employers any notice at all. Many student’s timetables have still not been finalised and have not had their scheduling issues fixed. Students affected include hundreds in BESS, PPES and French courses. Many of these students rely heavily on their part-time employment in order to pay their college fees. Therefore, it is incredibly irresponsible for college to put students’ jobs at risk as a result of timetable chaos. This is yet another reason that the college must act to solve these issues and ensure that this kind of chaos does not happen again.

“TCDSU Education officer Megan O’Connor has also expressed her concerns over the handling of the Senior Fresh module launch on Twitter stating that students are ‘extremely disappointed as to how this has played out over the last week’.”

So, the question is, where do we go from here? Many of the students affected by this mess-up have been vocal in their complaints, with some even expressing their disdain to this newspaper. TCDSU Education officer Megan O’Connor has also expressed her concerns over the handling of the Senior Fresh module launch on Twitter stating that students are “extremely disappointed as to how this has played out over the last week”. In emails to students, AR has apologised for the delays and for the human error that occurred on September 25, but frankly this is not enough. What the student population really needs now is a commitment from AR and from College that they will take every step necessary to prevent this kind of timetable chaos from ever happening again.