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August 06, 2012 5:07 PM University Kills Student’s Attempt to Improve Course Selection

By Daniel Luzer

Tim Arnold, a student at the University of Central Florida, created a program designed to allow students to register for class easier. The program, called “U Could Finish,” would send students a text message on their phones to let them know when a class they wanted opened up. The program helped over 500 UCF students find the classes they needed. And then the university shut the program down.

According to an article by Sarah Aslam at Central Florida Future:

Tim Arnold, a UCF marketing student who created a website called “U Could Finish” designed to ping students the moment a spot in a class opened up, has been found in violation of university policy and placed on academic probation until the end of the 2013 spring semester.
He is being punished for two counts of violation of the UCF Golden Rule Handbook under Section 14 “Misuse of Computing and Telecommunications Resources.” The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities is also sanctioning a hold on his academic record. He must write a five- to eight-page paper on what he would do if he were placed in the role of a UCF administrator and had to update the system, take a $15 coaching session and write another five to eight pages about the outcome of the coaching session. He was also terminated from his treasurer position for the Society for Marketing Professionals through spring 2013.

Arnold’s service allowed students to log on and select courses they wanted that were full. When students dropped the course, those waiting to get in would receive notice. Arnold said he designed the program to help students get into high-volume courses. Normally when students sign up for courses they’re told only that it’s full. They have to guess when to try again to see if places are available.

Why’s UCF opposed to such a service (which sounds pretty useful for students)? According to a piece by Angela Chen at the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Joel Hartman, vice provost for information technologies and resources at Central Florida, said that U Could Finish violated portions of the tech policy that prohibited students from using university tools to make money… and disrupting normal technology use.

Arnold explained that he invested about $1,000 into creating the program. He earned about $8. It seems the real reason the school decided to punish the student so several had to do with something other than money, or any real ethical violation.

As Arnold later explained:

TwitterMessage

Wait, you’re putting the student on academic probation because your program couldn’t handle his innovation? Isn’t this your fault? What was Arnold’s violation?

Also, how is “disrupting normal technology use” a punishable offense? Isn’t that just what good technology does?

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • david gross on August 06, 2012 9:26 PM:

    I will not send my kids to a university that cannot recognize student intiative. Why could he get it up and running and they are just having a discussion. I hope John Stossel hears about this...

  • POed Lib on August 06, 2012 11:18 PM:

    Wow, what a core-pig this "service" is. Accessing the system that often, and tying up resources, is not an acceptable use. And the payoff, simply allowing students to take a class, is a huge amount of use for a very small payoff. It sounds like a dumb idea, or implemented dumbly.

    When you design a system, you design for a level of usage, and if someone comes in and steals resources, that is an impediment. And, no, this is not the university's responsibility to account for unplanned usage.

    I do agree that being able to get a class is a huge boon.

  • Christina on August 07, 2012 1:16 AM:

    Wow. UCF made a huge mistake. Innovation is something all higher education schools should take pride in their students for processing. Clearly administrators and people on the board our upset they didn't think of it themselves first. Pure greed. Any collegiate student in the US would love a service that provided assistants in signing up for classes because registering is stressful and most of the time you don't end up in the courses you planned out for yourself.

    Hopefully for Tim Arnold they come will come around and you can take your invention to other school around the nation.

  • Snarki, child of Loki on August 07, 2012 7:47 AM:

    OMFG! "..accessed UCF's schedule search page ... as often as *EVERY 60 SECONDS*"!

    That's gotta bring their 2400 baud internet connection and TRS-80 server TO IT'S KNEES! Yes, clearly there is something unacceptable going on here, and it's reprehensible that a mere student bring it to light.

  • POed Lib on August 07, 2012 9:13 AM:

    Most of you excusing this violation of academic integrity are ignorant of IT issues. Read about the "denial of service" attack that is performed to damage a web site or web service. The DOS attack involves repeated requests for service from some website. The repeated requests fill up the queue, and others cannot get service.

    This approach, which is idiotic, is a DOS attack on the course website. The guy is lucky that they didn't prosecute him for theft of service. His punishment is light.

    There are far better approaches. Here is a very simple one, which I would imagine they are doing: Define an "accepted" queue, and a "waiting" queue. As soon as the "accepted" queue has a space, fill from the "waiting" queue. That is NOT what this guy did, BTW.

    Y'all are confusing "ends" and "means". The "end" was good, the "means" was bad.

  • Mia B. on August 09, 2012 8:41 AM:

    MyUCF has NO current wait list function, so the queue argument is somewhat irrelevant. I bet CT&S is NOW looking into a wait list implementation schedule. I thank this student for pushing for a means, even though the school has long ignored the need. That's an end that students have wanted for years.

  • Crissa on August 09, 2012 3:10 PM:

    Once every 60 seconds isn't a denial of service attack. Even with their numbers, they're saying they can't handle the normal load, which probably is worse when hundreds of students aren't piggy-backing atop the same feed.

    Disrupting normal use is an important thing, but their position here is wildly out of sync with reality. Given the numbers they gave - they should have had no problem with his program.

  • Sarah Aslam on August 10, 2012 10:17 PM:

    UCF just said today they are reducing Arnold's academic probation to fall 2012 only and are rolling out a system that automatically enrolls students on the waitlist for a course they want. Arnold said the $15 coaching session and essay papers still stand, but he's pleased with the outcome, even if it is at his expense.