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First HASS-D Lotttery Hailed as a Success

By Ramy Arnaout
Staff Reporter

A new computerized lottery system has already guaranteed many students spots in one of their top choices for Humanities, Arts, and Social Science Distribution courses. This alternative to the past lottery system has been lauded by program coordinators and many students.

Some students did complain that they had not heard about the lottery. For those who either missed the first lottery or were unhappy with the class assignment they received, there will be a second lottery held from noon tomorrow until noon on Jan. 27.

The first course selection program was operational from Dec. 8 to Jan. 5, both from Athena workstations and dialup machines. The program allowed students to rank up to six HASS-D classes from the ones offered during a particular term. Students who took part in the electronic lottery have already been informed of their assignment.

According to the HASS Office, of the 1206 students who entered last month's lottery, 1119, or 92.8 percent, received their first choice course, and another 64 (5.3 percent) received their second, third, fourth, or fifth choice. The remaining 23 students were not placed.

However, of these 23 students, 22 chose only one HASS-D class, although some selected different sections of classes. The remaining student simply had listed two very popular classes.

The lottery algorithm makes it impossible to "beat the system" in this way, since lottery selections are final: Once a student has been lotteried out of a class, the student will not be considered again for the class, no matter how many times it is listed.

Both administrators and students hail the new system as a success.

"It seems to have worked amazingly well," said Harriet N. Ritvo, associate dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. HASS Office Coordinator Bette K. Davis, Ritvo, and other HASS directors supervised the design and implementation of the new system.

Many students identified fairness as one of the chief benefits of the new system.

"I think [the new system] is a good idea, since everyone deserves an equal shot at HASS-D classes," said Melina Fan '97.

"The new [computerized] HASS-D system is superior to the previous [manual] system, since a student can make up to six selections and the lottery algorithm provides a fair, equal chance for any of the choices," said Oleg E. Drozhinin '96.

Increased convenience was another improvement students said.

The lottery was "very successful," said Ritvo, whose initial fears that many students would enroll on paper instead of through the new system proved unfounded.

The number of students who entered the new lottery compares favorably with the number who enrolled in HASS-D subjects last spring. While 1751 students signed up for HASS-D classes last spring, only 1484 were still registered by finals, said Leslie C. Perelman, assistant dean of undergraduate academic affairs.

Some not aware of lottery

Not all students expressed enthusiasm over the new system. Most discontent came from students who complained that there was not enough notice of the lottery beforehand.

"What the heck was the HASS-D lottery? It was definitely not publicized enough," said Jay Ongg '96, one of several students who missed the lottery. "It was very poorly done," he said. "If they wanted people to do it on Athena, they should have made it an automatic message whenever anyone logged onto Athena."

"We looked into something like that but Athena doesn't allow for [such announcements] -- they regard it as junk e-mail," Ritvo said. "The nearest we got to doing something like that was to put up notices on boards in dorms" and other boards.

"It's an Information Systems policy that they refuse" such messages, Perelman said. "Otherwise the list of messages would be [huge]," he said.

However, the problem of missing the lottery was not widespread. According to Drozhinin, "I didn't hear of anyone who didn't register for the HASS-D because they forgot about the date. I know several students, however, who finished their selection on the last date, close to the 5 p.m. deadline."

The second lottery will be the same as the first one, except that only classes with open spots will be available, Ritvo said. "People can change their minds [again]," she said, but if they do they cancel their choice from the previous lottery.

Ritvo urged people to take advantage of the second lottery, though she noted that in the future there will only be one lottery per term.

The second lottery will be held only to make sure that the system works, Davis said.

Ritvo offered advice for students dealing with HASS-D changes after Registration Day. "If students want to check if there's space in a class, go to the second or third class and talk to the professor," she said. "The first day many people are likely to change classes or otherwise drop out of a class," she said.