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The Double Major Dilemma

Honestly, I intend no sarcasm when I say that, in general, I find the bureaucratic process at our university to be impressive. My high school was partially under the umbrella of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which, at the time of my education there, was nationally notorious for astronomical failure rates and general incompetence. But only partially, because we were a semi-autonomous charter school in one of the ritziest neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Spots were very competitive, and the high failure rates of the district didn’t translate for us (hallelujah!).

Unfortunately, semi-autonomy did nothing to improve our bureaucracy. If anything, there were more petty politics, uninspired policies and arbitrary considerations involved in my school’s administration than in the rest of the district. It was an ordeal. Most of my interactions with the staff left me with the distinct impression that they suspected me of a crime. We were a school of 2,800 and it always seemed like our administrators were frazzled and overrun.

Comparatively, this university of over 19,000 runs like clockwork. GOLD is user-friendly and rarely overextended, and there are friendly and insightful people at every level of the hierarchy. In more than a year of writing opinion articles for the Daily Nexus, the university administration has given me too little to complain about. Until very recently, my rose-colored vision of UCSB’s administration remained intact. And then, with graduation in sight, I became a double major.

You see, degree audits on GOLD are restricted for double majors. In the beginning, only the first major is available for audit; in the end, both majors are off-limits. Apparently, by the time my double major was approved, I had already surpassed the critical unit threshold, because that very day I tried to examine my remaining degree requirements on GOLD. Needless to say, it was in vain, and I’d found my first UCSB-related snafu to nitpick.

Here is the first thought we should all be having: Who benefits from keeping double majors in the dark about their own progress? Certainly not the students. Double majors have more degree requirements than anyone else, and access to online degree audits would be an invaluable tool for keeping all of those required classes straight. For the university? I suppose it could be a cost-cutting measure, but I highly doubt the extra cost in servers would be overbearing. Anyway, if it were really about money, why would they cut off audits for both majors at any point in time? The cost of providing degree audits for students with only one major must be identical to the cost of providing one degree audit to students with two. It seems bizarre to take away an otherwise-universal privilege from the students who need it most.

I suppose it could be that the university wants to force double majors to be in close contact with their departmental advisors. Maybe the feeling is that students can’t be trusted to manage a complex set of requirements on their own. But, if this really is the feeling, then reason has gone out the window. The process of becoming a double major involves lots of paperwork, detailed planning and personal conferencing. For this reason, it happens that double majors are much more likely to be in contact with the staff than anyone else. Why not let the double majors have both resources — online and in-person? If we really cannot trust them to manage their own schedules, then why are we taking away a helpful tool and making it harder for them to do so?

I must confess, I have not spoken with the powers that be — in fact, I wouldn’t even know who they are. Really, it could be that I missed the point entirely, but, as of now, I find myself in the frustrated position of my former self; I think this is a bureaucratic bugaboo of monstrous proportions, the likes of which (I hate to say) will always be a part of education.

The procedures and rules of the institution have not, to my knowledge, ever been “right.” (That is, they could always be better.) But contrary to my attitude in high school (in which the institution is always wrong) and to my attitude in college (in which the institution is always right), this latest debacle has taught me that administration is a sliding scale. It just so happens that almost everything else has been sliding right at UCSB.

 Ben Moss wants to emphasize that bugaboos of any size are not welcome in the educational system.

Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are primarily submitted by students.
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2 Responses to The Double Major Dilemma

  1. Jodi Cutler Reply

    January 24, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    UCSB is currently working on programming the DARS audit system for double majors. They only recently completed the massive project of programming all the majors into the system to allow student to track progress as a single major.

    One of the main reasons for not allowing double majors to track their progress without meeting an advisor is that the double majors are limited to only two course over-lap and the degree audit system might miss that and show a student had completed each of the two majors but without catching an overlap that would prevent the student from graduating. Some double majors have lots of potential overlaps that must be sorted out by the two departments and the degree audit office when the student is ready to graduate.

    As an advisor, I’m always happy to meet with any of my double majors and run BOTH major audits with them at any time. But, I realize it can be inconvenient for a busy student to have to meet with a person instead of running everything on the computer.

  2. James Griffith Reply

    January 24, 2014 at 10:21 am

    I too was a double major at UCSB, and when I had done the paperwork to officially declare it, I was pretty upset that I could somehow magically no longer track my progress. I sent a suggestion email through GOLD’s feedback/contact/whatever section and never even received a response, even an automated one. This was back in 2011/2012.

    Now that I’m at a CC taking courses in my hometown, I too am thankful for GOLD’s smooth operation and friendly UI, but this was a major annoyance for me that could be easily fixed! It couldn’t be too hard to simply add the capability to track progress for both majors separately…

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