Opinions differ with 'bump card' procedure

Andrew Derry thought he was fully prepared to enroll in a neurophysiology class last fall.

Even after receiving a bump card to obtain a spot in the course, the Rogers City senior was denied entry into his class. The professor was not willing to negotiate.

“(The professor) said just because I didn't have the Mammalian Physiology class, he didn't feel I was prepared for the course," Derry said. "I have taken other physiology classes and the chemistry that was required for the class."

Drop/add cards, commonly known as bump cards, grant approval to students to obtain a seat in a course they might not be qualified for or for special circumstances, such as internships, said Karen Hutslar, a Central Michigan University registrar.

“It's special approval from the department authorizing a student into a course to either override a capacity or a prerequisite or a course that needs special authorization,” she said.

Leigh Orf, head of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, said faculty often sign the bump cards, bypassing the head of the department.

However, the bump card system requires the signature of the head of the department before the student can take to the course.

“Typically, the chair has the final say,” he said. “I trust the faculty. I don't ask to see them and I've never heard anyone complain.”

The only reason he might be upset about a bump-card transaction, Orf said, is if a faculty member signed one for a student whom he didn't feel was prepared for the course the student was trying to get into.

Cathy Willermet teaches anthropology courses that include "human origins" and "principles of forensic anthropology" at CMU.

Willermet has bumped students into her courses due to students wanting to take her classes that might not have the specific requirements, but can show they have the knowledge to understand the material and succeed in the course.

One of the prerequisites for the class, she said, is the general education biology 101 course.

Willermet said she didn't anticipate, when designing the master course syllabus, a situation in which a student taking biology 110 instead of 101 would be ineligible for ANT 342.

Notwithstanding, some students like Clare junior Alex Myers believe they should be able to take a course when they feel they are ready, and not the other way around.

The 22-year-old needed to take an engineering statistics class last semester, otherwise he would not have qualified as a full-time student. He was also denied entry due to a full class of students already enrolled.

“It made me mad because I thought that was the point of a bump card,” Myers said.

The master course syllabus for courses, Willermet explained, dictates the prerequisites a student must have for that course and plays a part in the situation.

“When professors are designing courses, we think very carefully about the prerequisites,” she said. “The curriculum is reviewed at the department, college and university levels. We try not to arbitrarily assign prerequisites.”

However, there are possibilities where a student could go to a department head to bump into a course. But it mostly comes down to the professor, Willermet said.

“You don't ever want to set up a situation where the student isn't prepared,” she said. “Prerequisites are there to protect the students. We don't want to set students up for failure."

Each department has their own preference to predominantly use bump cards or the waiting lists for their respective department's courses.

The Geography department uses wait lists and bump cards, while the Chemistry department primarily uses the wait list system. Similarly, the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences uses bump cards.

Robert Noggle, head of the Department of Philosophy and Religion, said his department uses bump cards.

"I think a lot of people in my department want to use bump cards to control who they let in," Noggle said. "We've always done it."

To wait or bump?

Other students have used a waiting list to enter a course instead of a bump card.

Rockford senior Alex Fox said he used a waiting list to enter into English 201 this past summer. He said the process to enter into a class via the waiting list was simple, but the process is a quick one.

"Once a class is full, your chances of getting into it are pretty slim," he said. "I was kind of lucky. It doesn't always work out."

He said a waiting list could be used by a department if too many students are using a bump card.

The waiting list process, introduced in 2011, allows students the opportunity to enter into a course when a spot becomes available.

Wait lists can be used if a department chooses to use it. This affects a student's ability to enroll in a course due to a department's ability to have an automatic or manual wait list.

Automatic wait lists mean a department has the ability to have their waiting list automatically enter students, while with a manual waiting list, the professor picks and chooses the students they want in their courses.

Linda McClain, the Business Student Services executive secretary, said waiting lists are being used more in the College of Business.

"Most of our departments aren't using the waiting lists but they're growing in popularity," McClain said. "As the department chairs learn more about them, they'll want to use them more."

The College of Business used more than 200 bump cards for the spring semester. McClain said she doesn't foresee the college doing away with bump cards totally in favor of waiting lists.

"It's kind of a risk to be on the waiting list if you need a class to graduate," she said. "With the bump cards, we know the students made the initiative to get into the class"


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