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:

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

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