Martinez | A functioning SimpleEnroll needs to be prioritized

Opinion by Alondra Martinez
April 17, 2023, 10:37 p.m.

Is it easier to buy Taylor Swift tickets for “The Eras Tour” or to enroll in a Stanford class on SimpleEnroll during peak time?

When tickets for Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” went on sale on Ticketmaster, many fans experienced extraordinarily long wait times full of loading and crashing, resulting in upset fans and a canceled general sale. The management was awful, to the point where some fans filed a lawsuit in response to the inadequate system. Ticketmaster put out a statement apologizing and remarked that the tour’s demand far exceeded what the site could accommodate. 

Amid the disaster of getting tickets for “The Eras Tour,” Ticketmaster used a different system to sell tickets for another high-demand tour, Adele’s “Weekends with Adele.” Ticketmaster introduced a staggered system for this tour, where fans would buy tickets at different times. In an email to fans selected to purchase tickets, Ticketmaster said, “In an effort to manage wait times for fans, all shows are assigned specific presale windows between the hours of 10 A.M. PT and 4 P.M. PT on Wednesday, April 5.” This system created more favorable experiences for fans, including myself, who wanted to purchase tickets.

Similarly to a staggered system to purchase concert tickets, a staggered system could be an approach Stanford takes for class enrollment in the future. Notably, a staggered class enrollment system is a concept that has been introduced previously by many institutions. 

At the University of California, Los Angeles, students have separate enrollment times, where students with the most units receive priority. In this case, upperclassmen would have first access to enroll in classes. 

Similarly, Yale University recently introduced a staggered class enrollment process for the Spring of 2023 semester, where seniors have priority. However, even before this staggered enrollment process, an overwhelmed server was never an issue, but rather other transparency issues. 

Although staggered enrollment appears to be a viable option, it is difficult to imagine that Stanford has the capacity for it as during Autumn quarter, frosh still had issues enrolling. However, it could be a step in the right direction in an attempt to ease the enrollment process. Though, a staggered enrollment might not be favorable for much of the student body. To offset this, enrollment caps can be enforced, so with every group of students that enroll, a portion of seats can be available for every period.

Stanford could approach a new system in many ways, but some may be more promising than others. Whichever direction Stanford takes, it should be one that improves the effectiveness of SimpleEnroll, because the experience students have had in the past has been extremely disappointing.

This past Autumn quarter was my first quarter at Stanford and, thus, my first time having to enroll in classes. As a part of the Frosh “Approaching Stanford” and “New Student Orientation” (NSO) experience, none of the incoming students were able to enroll in classes until the end of these programs. What I took away from my first time enrolling in classes is that it is pretty ironic that Stanford, one of the leading institutions in computer science, has not been able to configure an adequate class enrollment system. 

On Sept. 22, 2022, Frosh had a mandatory  “Designing Your First Quarter” Zoom event at 1 p.m. to help us choose our classes. However, we were also warned of the high probability that Axess would crash, and we should not freak out over not being able to enroll in classes immediately. Once this event concluded at 2 p.m., our enrollment hold was lifted, and we could finally enroll in classes. Except, an overwhelmed Axess barred us from enrolling.

When the clock hit 2 p.m., Axess was not loading for me, my roommate or anyone in my all-frosh dorm. We kept getting error messages and had no luck enrolling. We only saw a blank page that failed to load for the next hour and a half. 

At 3:30 p.m., we had to attend a “President’s Reception and Class Photo Event.” Many frosh hesitantly participated because we could still not enroll in classes. At around 5 p.m., Axess was back up and running, and frosh could finally enroll in classes after about a three-hour delay. It is safe to say it was not the most pleasant “first time enrolling in classes” experience.

With the introduction of SimpleEnroll for Winter quarter enrollment, I was hesitant to believe it would be a better enrollment experience. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the new site was only down for a few minutes when enrollment opened, and I could enroll within a few minutes. It was a much better experience than in the Autumn and a significant improvement. 

For Spring quarter enrollment, Stanford introduced the “Batch Enroll” feature. Following the improvement during Winter quarter, I expected this enrollment to go pretty smoothly, especially with how positively Stanford promoted the new feature. Batch Enroll was touted as a “two-minute” process during peak enrollment time and an easier way to enroll in classes with the “push of a button.” However, Spring enrollment demonstrated this seemingly smooth feature was not what it seemed.

Adding this feature for Spring enrollment created an even longer process than Winter quarter. Many students received error messages on the site and had trouble loading SimpleEnroll. Although I could get into all of the classes I had planned, I couldn’t finish enrolling until 30 minutes after SimpleEnroll opened.

The delay during Spring enrollment was disappointing as it was a setback from a more straightforward enrollment process students faced during the Winter. In response to Spring enrollment, Stanford stated that it is pursuing alternate options for enrollment management.

While I had heard from RAs, upperclassmen and University staff that enrollment was typically a complicated process, I never expected it to be as frustrating, especially compared to other institutions. 

Fixing SimpleEnroll will not change the number of students who can enroll in a class or reduce the chances of being waitlisted. Still, it would make it a simpler enrollment process that does not include hours of endless refreshing and annoyance. 

With a recent disappointing enrollment process and the University asking students for feedback, it is unclear if Stanford will pursue a different enrollment process in Autumn quarter. Regardless of what the University decides to pursue, it should prioritize an effective enrollment process that involves collaborative decision-making with the student body.

This is simply an idea that Stanford could consider to improve the enrollment process for students. However, the main takeaway is that Stanford needs to prioritize an adequate enrollment system that involves the student body’s opinions. There may never be a perfect system; however, if Stanford listens to student voices and implements this feedback into an efficient system, the institution could inch closer to a better student experience.

Alondra Martinez ’26 is a Desk Editor for Opinions and Editorial Board Member for Vol. 265. She is majoring in Political Science. You can contact her at [email protected].

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