LSU Registrar Robert Doolas
LSU Registrar Robert Doolas

By Scott Branson | LSU Student

A college student's job is finished with the completion of the final semester exam, but much has to be done – such as processing more than 100,000 individual grades -- before he or she strolls across the stage to receive a diploma from Louisiana State University and a pat on the back from proud parents.

It's a scenario that plays out at the end of each semester in the LSU registrar's office for every student, including those who intend to graduate a mere three days later.

"Grades for degree candidates are always due at nine o'clock on the Tuesday before Commencement, which is always on Friday," Robert Doolos said. "All other grades are due Wednesday, but are they all in by 9 a.m.? No."

Considering the time it takes the registrar's office to process the multitude of grades, Doolos said it is critical professors meet deadlines. "After nine o'clock the day the grades are due, we start chasing the grades we don't have. We call the departments and tell them, 'Contact these turkeys and get the grades in.'"

Once all grades are received, a collection of computer programs apply the grades to each student's academic portfolio.

"We run a series of programs that kicks off at about 4:30 in the afternoon, and it takes all night to run them," Doolos said. "It adjusts grade point averages, hours earned and carried, and quality points."

Doolos, who began work at LSU as a counselor in the Arts and Sciences school 35 years ago, said professors used to fill out grade reports on paper, requiring the registrar's office to process grades mostly by hand.

"Laborious just begins to describe the process. When we went to online grading in the nineties, it was absolutely marvelous. The time that has saved us in this office chasing missing grades is amazing."

Over the years, LSU maintained the tradition of handing graduates their actual diplomas at commencement, a practice that is dying across the country.

"There are a lot of schools where your diploma is mailed to you a couple weeks later after they check everything," Doolos said. "We make sure when graduates walk across that stage, by golly, they're going to get their (genuine) diploma."

Cramming two weeks' worth of work into the few days before the commencement ceremony means each student walking across the stage is an official graduate.

"It was great receiving an actual diploma on graduation," said LSU graduate and middle school music teacher Dave Getz. "Knowing I had actually earned my degree made commencement even more enjoyable."

Doolos said having a successful and smooth commencement ceremony makes the months of planning and stressful days of grade processing worth the struggle, and that failure is not an option. "The university relies on us to keep complete and accurate record on its students. If we fail in that, we need to pack it up and go home."