Archway Woes

A lot of us here have experienced troubles with the Archway. And it seems that at least once a semester, it crashes during registration.

Students get angry when this happens. Worries and frustration turned into bitterness and confusion, as students of the freshman class took to Facebook after the Archway crashed at 7 p.m. on Wednesday April 11, the first night of registration for rising sophomores.

“WHY ARCHWAY WHY,” posted first year student Amelia Zecker to her Facebook profile when she realized that Archway wasn’t working. Some students didn’t even realize what was going on at first, and took to the internet to see if Archway worked for anyone else. It didn’t.

Students trying to register in the library were collectively confused, and the “McDaniel College: Class of 2015 Facebook” group quickly lit up with complaints, going so far as threatening to drop out, flip tables, flip cars, destroy Whiteford (yes, Whiteford, not Rouzer) and even stage a riot with torches and pitchforks in Red Square and take it into Westminster. I realize this was in jest, but please, fellow students, do not take out your McDaniel College frustrations on Westminster! Our relationship with Westminster is already precarious enough, and we don’t need to bother them with a problem that has nothing to do with them!

Some students who registered at 7 p.m. were able to get some or all of their courses processed, as confirmed by emails automatically generated by the Archway, but most students weren’t so lucky. These students seemed frustrated that some people got through but they themselves could not.

For about an hour and a half, the Archway would not load. Afterwards, at around 8:30 p.m., some students were able to get in, either to register or confirm their registrations, but after that, the Archway continued to crash. People from later registration times were trying to register, while many people with 7 p.m. registration times were still trying without success.

Most frustratingly, IT did not send out an email alerting students about the problem until 9:39 p.m., two and a half hours after the problem began. Registration for people with Wednesday night time slots was moved to Thursday night during the same time slots, while people with Thursday night registration times were moved to the same time slots on Friday night.

It would have saved a lot of aggravation for students if IT had closed the Archway much earlier.

So why did this happen?

According to Associate Dean of Student Academic Life Lisa Breslin, the Archway crashed because too many students were trying to access it at the same time. She continued, “The server should have been able to handle the number of students online, but it did not.”

What can we do to solve this problem? A lot of first year students on Facebook expressed that it would be great if the College would get a bigger and better server to handle the traffic to the Archway. It definitely seems like it would be a worthwhile investment.

Fortunately, this is already in the works. According to Dean Breslin, “The College is moving to a new server for Archway this summer.”

“When the new server is in place,” she continued, “IT folks will run a performance test to confirm where bottlenecks are and make adjustments accordingly.”

Dean Breslin also confirmed that the Archway did not move to a new server just prior to registration.

Regarding other possible registration fixes, it also occurred to me that instead of having a bunch of people register at the beginning of each hour, it would be more effective to allow a smaller amount of people to register at the beginning of each half or even quarter hour, which would significantly reduce the amount of people trying to register at the exact same time.

Whether or not the Registrar implements a system in which students are allowed to register every 15 or 30 minutes, the College already recognizes that problems with Archway stem from the number of people allowed to register at a given time, and will hopefully stagger students more effectively in the future.

“Staggering the number of students allowed to access Archway solves the problem. We thought we had staggered that number appropriately, but we obviously did not,” said Dean Breslin.

In the meantime, it’s important that we try not to overreact when things like the Archway crashing occur. This sort of Archway crash doesn’t happen as often as we may think it does, so we need not be as outraged.

According to Dean Breslin, the last time the Archway crashed for the length of time it did last week was eight years ago, and the last time registration had to be postponed until the next night was at least more than four years ago. Clearly, most problems with the Archway are minor in comparison to what happened.

We also need to remember that the people over at the Registrar’s office and IT are only human and are not all-powerful. Occasionally, some problems are just too big for them to handle in a short amount of time, and it’s really not their fault.

“Registration system appears to be down. I feel sorry for the registrar staff- remember: the software sucks and the staff are victims too,” tweeted philosophy professor Peter Bradley on the evening of the Archway crash.

The software is indeed crappy, and changing it is not an easy fix. Not a lot of registration software programs exist, and upgrading to a fancier version of what we already have can be very expensive.

Additionally, switching registration programs can have other, non-monetary costs. A friend of mine who attends Temple University told me that while Temple’s newest registration system does not crash, it fails to understand things like prerequisites, corequisites and AP and transfer credits. If that’s what a new registration system would give us, I’d frankly rather stick with one that crashes every once in a while. I’d like for my registration system to know what I’ve taken both in and out of McDaniel and what I’m allowed to take based on those things.

Don’t forget to consider the fact that a crappy, crashing registration system is NOT a problem exclusive to McDaniel. A cousin of mine at Bloomsburg University told me that their registration system crashes when too many people use it (much to the annoyance of their student body—sound familiar?). Because there are so few different registration softwares out there, imaginably, dozens of other colleges are also stuck using the same Datatel software that McDaniel does and probably encounter the same problems.

Overall, the next time you go to register, remember that you’re not the only one stressed out about it. Plenty of people behind the scenes stress out about it too and do their best to work with what little they have in order to make the registration process as painless as possible for students.