BREAKING: Registration halted, system plagued by technical difficulties

By Elizabeth Rymut and Zoë Takaki

File photo

UPDATE 4:00 p.m. Nov. 10: In an email to students, the college announced registration will restart on Friday, and students will maintain the same registration priority previously established. An updated version of the older registration model will be used. Students will receive an email message confirming their registration time Thursday. 

Tumbling out of bed and stumbling to their computers Monday morning, students logged onto their Columbia portals, ready to register for Spring 2023 classes, only to be greeted with “failed to open” pages; these issues continued for other students logging on throughout the day.

Student registration opened for some at 7 a.m. and for others at noon, yet due to technical issues with Columbia’s web server, many students were having trouble registering, experiencing lagging response times and pages that would not load — some students were not able to register at all.

Monday evening, the school sent an email acknowledging the severity of the problems and informing students that registration will be paused until further notice, and the college will send an update on Thursday outlining new registration times for all students.

Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., Information Technology released a written statement to the Chronicle via email.

“The IT team continues to work with the vendor to find a solution,” said Kathie Koch, associate vice president and chief information officer of the Information Technology Department.

Lambrini Lukidis, associate vice president for Strategic Communications and External Relations, said she does not know when the issue will be resolved.

“We have reached out to the vendors, we’ve escalated it and our internal team has been working with a support team to actively resolve this as soon as possible,” Lukidis said. “They know this is a critical issue for us, given that this is the first day of registration for the upcoming semester.”

Craig Sigele, academic manager of the Communication Department, said he began receiving messages from students as early as 7:30 a.m. about not being able to get through the system.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” Sigele said. “Once in a while there will be a hiccup … but it’s never been down to my knowledge or experienced this badly.”

Sigele, who is also the president of the United Staff of Columbia College, said this may be due to understaffing, including the lead role in the registrar’s office being filled by an interim appointment, currently Jim Gingras.

“The head registrar position is still open, [has been] since May. They have an interim registrar, but he’s now doing the work of two people,” Sigele said. “In the school’s effort to save money by not replacing people right away, they are causing themselves possibly an even greater loss.”

The Student Government Association released a statement to the Chronicle Monday at 4 p.m. expressing their frustration with the situation and called on the college to “address the systemic failures of the registration process.”

Tyler Harding, SGA student president and senior film and television major, said the registration system being used this semester is new.

“The problem is that this keeps happening year after year after year at Columbia,” Harding said. “It happened in the past, and then Columbia rolled out this new system and everything looked cleaner and nicer and then it happened again, and so it doesn’t seem like they’re addressing the problem of traffic.”

Elizabeth Barajas Vasquez, student representative to the Board of Trustees and a junior English major, said she thinks this could have a negative impact on Columbia’s retention.

“I think if [Columbia] is so vocal about retention being an issue on campus, they should find solutions to things that are affecting retention such as registration,” Barajas Vasquez said. “Most students come to a four-year college because they want to spend only four years here.”

Some students have seen this issue before, saying the website often lags to a degree, but they noted the technical difficulties were never as bad as Monday.

“Usually, I’d expect it to be slow at first, but then get gradually faster the more people register, you know, less and less around the server all at once,” said Maxwell Mootz, a senior film and television major. “But that didn’t seem like it was happening [Monday] morning.”

Ksymena Pawlowicz, a senior public relations major, compared yesterday’s experience to prior semesters.

“I always had an issue registering, but it never took so long as today. It’s almost 5 p.m., so 10 hours since my registration slot started, and I’m still not registered for my classes,” Pawlowicz said Monday. “I was scared that all of my classes will fill in.”

Pawlowicz plans to graduate in May, but fears having to pay for another semester at Columbia, especially as an international student.

“The money situation is difficult; the dollar is very expensive. So not getting into those classes and waiting another semester for those classes [is] kind of unacceptable for me,” Pawlowicz said.

Gabrielle Pelayo, a senior creative writing major, was late to class due to the technical difficulties and found the experience continuing to affect her while in class.

“It was really hard for me to pay attention or be in the right headspace for class because of how much stress it was causing me,” Pelayo said.

In the email from the college, the school confirmed it is “committed to making sure that those students [who struggled to register] are able to complete their studies and earn their degrees on time.”

Last week, the college hosted RegFest in the Student Center to help students verify if they have any holds on their account, check their assigned registration time and review the courses offered.

Pelayo said students have voiced similar complaints before.

“Students have, for many semesters, been complaining about the registration servers being terrible. And the fact that they haven’t done anything to really remedy it besides just changing the system, that just seems irresponsible on Columbia’s part,” she said.

Jorden Smith, a senior advertising major, said they would like a promise from the [school] pledging to “provide a new software to register for classes, one that has been proving to run smoothly for other institutions.”

More updates to come.