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The Daily Tar Heel

Effort Aims to Enforce Prerequisites

Student Central currently has no feature to check a student's previous coursework before allowing a student to register for a class. "We haven't found a clear way to do that and not disrupt the whole system," said David Lanier, the University registrar.

A project is under way to add a prerequisite screening feature, but it will not be completed for one to two more years. The project keeps getting pushed back because of other jobs demand the attention of the registrar's office, Lanier said.

Carolyn Cannon, associate dean of academic advising, said her office is concerned that there is no registration filter on Student Central.

Cannon said there are two main problems with students taking courses for which they haven't fulfilled the prerequisites. First, the student probably does not have the necessary background to succeed in the course, and second, it takes up seats that could be filled by students who need the course and have completed the prerequisites. "If a student needs a course to graduate, and they have the prerequisites, you don't want a freshman accidentally registering," Cannon said.

Cannon said students occasionally key in the wrong call number and don't realize they registered for the wrong class. Other students just don't thoroughly examine the directory of classes.

But some students intentionally register for the wrong class in an attempt to bypass a prerequisite or because they don't feel they were placed in the appropriate level, Cannon said, adding that such incidents are more likely to happen in math and science courses, which have defined sequences.

Cannon used the example of a student registering for Math 31 even though he didn't pass Math 30 with the required grade of C- or better. "Some people say, `Even though I made a D, I can do better, so I'll be fine,'" Cannon said.

To avoid such problems, Warren Wogen, chairman of the Department of Mathematics, said his department requires students to fill out a form on the first day of class explaining how they've satisfied the prerequisites for the course.

Wogen said it's possible that a student slips by without taking the prerequisites once in a while but that the forms have been effective for his department. "Prerequisites are there for a reason, and students are likely to get in serious academic trouble (if they lie on the form),"he said.

Brad Newcomb, student attorney general, said he doesn't remember a student being charged in the Honor Court for lying about prerequisites. But he said lying would qualify as the furnishing of false information, with intent to deceive, to members of the University community or as the forgery, falsification or fraudulent misuse of University documents, records or identification cards.

The sanction would depend on the circumstances of the case but it probably wouldn't be anything greater than academic probation, Newcomb said.

But Cannon said students who register for courses without fulfilling prerequisites are probably unaware of their mistake.

And Lanier said he hopes a registration filter will also help misguided students. "It's not much use if the barn doors are open, and the cows are out," Lanier said. "We want to stop them at the front door."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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