August 28, 2008

Quarrel With Univ. Registrar Forces Schedulizer Website to Shut Down

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In a surprising and unprecedented move, the popular website decided to discontinue its service for Cornell students, causing massive outcry as Cornellians attempted to plan their classes for the semester. At approximately 8:15 last night, the system shut down all class listings and other Schedulizer services, leaving in its stead only an open note to Cornell students.
“Schedulizer is down because Cornell has made it prohibitively difficult for us to maintain accurate course information,” the note read.
The website — which collects Cornell course roster information and allows students to optimize their schedule planning — has remained up and running for the other eight schools that it serves. 11,033 Cornell students have logged in to Schedulizer in the last six months, and it has grown at 50 percent per year at Cornell since it was introduced.
According to Jay Searson ’08, CEO of Schedulizer, the decision was the result of a disagreement between the website owners and the Cornell Registrar.
Schedulizer relies on public course listings to allow students to create their schedules, using a “robot” to “crawl” the data. Because Cornell course listings change often, the system updates at least every week.
However, since Cornell switched its course management system to PeopleSoft, the robot that Schedulizer uses has begun to interfere with the University’s Student Services program. The Registrar subsequently prohibited Schedulizer from updating its course listings by using its robot to crawl PeopleSoft. The University also began constantly changing the structure of its PDF course roster — the other available form of course information — forcing Schedulizer to re-input data multiple times, which Searson noted was an extremely difficult and expensive process. Thus, Schedulizer had no tenable way of retrieving the course information
“We’ve been talking with David Yeh [vice president for student and academic services] since the end of last semester,” Searson said. “We tried to cooperate as much as possible with them, but they made it really difficult … The Registrar has dropped the ball. We don’t really have a choice.”
Searson said that Schedulizer will remain inactive at Cornell until the University begins to cooperate with the company. Searson wants a way to receive the course information that is not in PDF form. However, he questioned how open to cooperation the administration really is, noting that the University has threatened his company with legal action for hacking into PeopleSoft. He maintains that they were just using their robot to crawl for course information.
“We have made our best efforts to work with the University Registrar to arrive at an acceptable solution to keep Schedulizer running, but the Registrar has been unresponsive,” the note on the website read. “We know that many of you depend on Schedulizer to schedule your classes, and believe us when we say we really, really didn’t want to do this.”
Yeh responded that Cornell has changed its format as it has adjusted to the new PeopleSoft program, and that the University will not go out of its way to help Schedulizer.
“We’re not helping them do their work. That’s not our responsibility,” Yeh said. “It’s a commercial company. They have resources. We did give them an approved location to give them information.”
Yeh added that Cornell does have a somewhat similar scheduling program within the Student Center of the PeopleSoft program.
Simeon Moss ’73, director of Cornell Press Relations, said that if Schedulizer comes up with a proposal to work with the University, the administration would be open to working with the website.
Meanwhile, students who have tried to use Schedulizer since it went down have responded with outrage. Because PeopleSoft has prohibited many students from adding and dropping courses due to complications with the program that started this morning, many Cornellians still don’t have their schedules finalized. According to some students, Schedulizer’s downfall further complicated the process.
“As one of the top colleges, I’m glad we use scheduling software as user-friendly and compatible as PeopleSoft,” said Pete Kelly ’11 sarcastically, who has already sent an e-mail to the registrar expressing his frustration. “They’re going to have hundreds of emails tomorrow.”
Upon hearing the news, Ilyssa Meren ’10, reacted: “Oh my god, I didn’t get a chance to print my schedule yet. I’m going to cry.”
Oren Factor ’11 expressed frustration that he was forced to manually balance his schedule on the day before classes began.
“If Cornell is responsible for this, they have found yet another way to make enrolling in classes more difficult,” he said.
Furthermore, students have begun a Facebook group called “Bring Schedulizer Back to Cornell.” At press time, it had 660 members.
This reaction from Cornell students is exactly what Searson is hoping will spur the Cornell administration to work with him.
The note on the website states: “Please, if Schedulizer is important to you, send an email to the registrar at [email protected]. Let them know. Ask them to work with us to bring Schedulizer back.”