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UCF student punished for registration idea

Marketing major tried to help students enroll in courses

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ORLANDO, Fla. – University of Central Florida students enrolling in courses for the next semester can select their classes online. But if they wait too long after enrollment opens or if the course is popular, it might be full.

So many students find themselves constantly re-checking the website for any last-minute openings.

"When people couldn't get in the classes that worked into their schedule, they were brought to tears," said marketing major Tim Arnold, who once worked as a campus tour guide.

Arnold came up with the idea for his own website, UCouldFinish.com, that would automatically check UCF's enrollment website multiple times a day to search for classes on the students' behalf. If a previously-closed course had an opening, Arnold's website would send them a text message on their phone.

"Everyone thought it was a great idea," he said.

But just six days after his service went online, UCF administrators blocked Arnold's website from accessing the university's course scheduling data. The senior then received a letter from the university's Office of Student Conduct accusing him of misusing the school's computing and telecommunications resources.

"I'm not accessing anything illegitimately," said Arnold. "It's a public guest search that's available to anyone, anyone in the world, student or not."

University officials, however, said Arnold's software was tying up the campus computer network, claiming it accessed UCF's scheduling website 220,000 times, as often as every 60 seconds.

"While the intent of helping students register for classes is positive, the website placed an unmanageable load on UCF's system," said a UCF spokesman.

"I'm more than skeptical," said Arnold. "I'm pretty positive it had no effect whatsoever on their systems."

A UCF panel found Arnold in violation of university policies for interfering with the computer network. He has been put on disciplinary probation and must relinquish his leadership role in a campus organization.

Arnold has also been ordered to undergo a coaching session to discuss the importance of complying with university policies and write a 5-8 page paper on how it went. Additionally he has to write another 6 page paper describing how he would change UCF's class scheduling computer system, according to documents obtained by Local 6.

"When I'm in my classes and they teach you to think innovatively, think creatively, use your talents to enrich the human experience, as they put in the UCF creed," said Arnold. "Its been the opposite of that, in my opinion."

Arnold has the support of UCF Student Body President Cortez Whately, who has concerns with UCF's response. 

"I think the punishment, at least the probation, was harsh because he has to give up his leadership positions," Whatley told Local 6.

Whatley sees the need for a service like the one Arnold developed, because so many students have a hard time getting into the classes they need to graduate.

"I am very much behind him and what he did. It's brilliant," Whatley added.

Arnold plans to appeal his punishment.