The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 52.0°F | A Few Clouds

HASS-D Lottery To Be Revamped

By Ramy Arnaout
Staff Reporter

Thanks to a new computerized lottery system, students will know whether they will be able to enroll in their top choices for Humanities, Arts, and Social Science Distribution courses next spring before the term even begins.

The new system attempts to provide a fairer lottery scheme which is also more efficient and easy to use than the current manual enrollment process, according to HASS administrators.

The system only applies to HASS-D courses, and not to regular HASS courses or HASS-D language-option courses.

The system is designed to "give students a ticket into a class -- a guarantee that the student is in that class," said Harriet Ritvo, associate dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. "[The system] is fair in that everyone gets a crack at their first choice."

Students can also determine which HASS-Ds still have openings during the term.

Coordinators are "expecting close to 99 percent of students to use this system," Ritvo said, although people can still register by hand.

Although the computerized lottery is in the experimental phase, it is expected to supplant the old paper system in the future, according to Ritvo and HASS Office Coordinator Bette K. Davis who supervised the system's development.

HASS-D enrollment online

The course selection program will be operational from Dec. 8 through Jan. 5, both from workstations and dial-up machines. The program allows the student to rank up to six HASS-D classes from the ones offered during a particular term.

The lottery algorithm first assigns each student in his first-choice class. In classes that are oversubscribed (more than 25 students per section), the program will randomly reassign students to their next choice in order to reduce the class size.

All requests will be weighted equally regardless of a student's year, major, minor, or concentration. However, students who were lotteried out of a HASS-D this semester are guaranteed placement in a class if it is offered and they choose to enroll.

In addition, the date of registration will not affect a student's chances in the lottery, Davis said.

Anyone planning to enroll in more than one HASS-D will need to speak to the class instructors and fill out an enrollment card by hand. However, judging from the distribution of past enrollment, the organizers do not feel this will be a significant problem.

Students who do not enter the first lottery, or those who are dissatisfied with the results, may enter the second lottery.

However, there will only be a second lottery in Spring 1994. It will be eliminated "once we've got [the system] running like a well-oiled machine," Ritvo explained. The enrollment period will also be cut from four weeks to just a few days in future terms.

Since many classes fill to capacity after the first round lottery, students who enroll late or in the second round will only be able to choose from a limited selection of courses, Ritvo said.

The HASS administrators said they are confident that the new lottery process will be both fair and effective in giving students their choices.

They will send a letter detailing the new lottery system to students and faculty by the end of the week.

New system to fix old problems

The new system is a "focused solution to a very particular problem" -- that students who lottery out of oversubscribed classes may be forced to continue their search well into the term.

Ritvo described this as being "stressful for both students and faculty."

With the computerized lottery, students will know the results of the lotteries before the term even begins.

Mayukh Sukhatme '97, a prospective student in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Science (Course IX), was one of the many students lotteried out of Introduction to Psychology (9.00) this fall.

Sukhatme described the current system as being, "somewhat understandable, but unfortunate. Psychology is offered only once a year. People who need to take [psychology] to get further along in their major may have to wait a whole year to get started, and the professor might not be who you expected."

"I've never liked the lottery ... but I have never thought of a better way of doing it," said Associate Professor of Literature John Hildebidle, who is teaching two HASS-Ds this year. "When the dean said that there was going to be a new system, [I said] `hallelujah.' ... [But] I'm not much in the way of faceless computers making decisions about people's lives."