Saving seats: Its academic dishonesty

It’s been called “academic dishonesty” by USF administrators, and it’s sparked e-mails threatening a “loss of registration privileges” for students.

But still, students continue to secure their place in a desired class by soliciting fellow students to “save their spot” – an act that no university policy can currently prevent. It’s one of the problems USF faces while registration continues for summer and fall classes.

In accordance to school policy, students enrolled in the Honors College, Freshman Summer Institute (FSI) and Student Support Services (SSS) programs, as well as athletes, are given priority registration for classes.

As a result, students that have lower priority registration status ask them to hold a seat in a class. Then he or she drops the class right before the lower priority student registers – ideally swapping places.

This is a problem, said Angela Debose, university registrar.

“There is no specific policy for holding seats,” she said. “Generally, one would not know that a student is doing this unless she or he were to make someone aware.”

Erin Toliver, a sophomore Honors College student majoring in English literature, said it is “usually people who need to get into high-demand classes” who attempt to “cheat the system,” leapfrog a priority registering student and obtain a seat in a class.

“I’ve had a friend who asked me to reserve a (seat) for (a) … class,” said Toliver, who is given higher registering priority earlier than other sophomores because of her academic standing. “I declined to register for them because I didn’t want to do anything illegal.”

An e-mail, titled “saving seats equals academic dishonesty,” was sent to Honors College students at the end of March from staff. It discouraged students from “holding places for their friends.”

The e-mail also says, “the penalties for doing this are severe, including loss of early registration privileges.”

However, Debose said “it would be very difficult to know or detect” students who were engaging in the practice.

Anthony Embry, associate university registrar, said seat saving is considered “a misuse of university resources” because students are not registering for their own classes.

“There is a lot of drop-add activity that takes place in the first week of classes,” Embry said. “But that is mostly because students want to check out the class and the teacher.”

Following priority-registration students, the order of registration for undergraduates is as follows: graduating seniors, continuing seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen pursuing a first bachelor’s degree. Number of credits is also a factor, Debose said to The Oracle in November.

And administrators are not the only ones who are bothered by the ambiguity of the trend.

Marcus Ducheine, a freshman majoring in biology, said most of the classes he tried to register for were filled.

“I didn’t get to register for classes because everyone else was holding spots for other people,” he said. “People offered to hold spots for me, but I didn’t think it would be this bad.”

Ducheine said he plans on taking some of his prerequisite courses over the summer to ensure he graduates on time. However, the unexpected delay has caused other problems.

“It’s kind of unfortunate because (someone) sets themselves up for summer,” he said. “It’s kind of a waste because housing is paid for, and if the classes aren’t available, then it costs money to cancel.”

According to the Department of Housing and Residential Education website, the fee for canceling a summer housing contract is $100. However, Embry said students should not rule out a class just because seats were initially unavailable.

“I know the University is working very hard to try to open up as many sections as they can so students can complete their degree,” he said.