A student still debating whether to stay in his history class – the first exam is still looming, the professor is dull and taking eighteen credits is starting to sound like a bad idea – has only one more day to decide whether to drop the class, take it pass/fail or stick it out for a grade. Students’ grace period to finalize their classes runs out this Wednesday, leaving them unnecessarily rushed to finalize their academic schedules.
The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts’s policy states that a student is entitled to drop or add any courses within the first three weeks of the term without penalty. Should a student wish to drop a class later in the term, he still pays tuition, completes arduous paperwork and above all else, receives the University’s mark of shame – the dreaded “W” – on his transcript.
The LSA deadline for electing a class pass/fail is currently set on the same day as the drop/add deadline. Because few professors have given tests or graded papers before the deadline, students often must make the pass/fail selection before they gain a true understanding of the class’s difficulty. Some students won’t learn they’re in over their heads until they bomb their first bluebook – a realization that comes weeks too late.
To avoid this potentially bleak scenario, LSA should follow the example of the University’s College of Engineering, which sets its pass/fail deadline in the ninth week of the term – a month and a half after the LSA deadline. This extension allows a student more time to gain adequate information before deciding whether taking the course for a grade or only credit is more appropriate.
A longstanding objection to extending the drop/add deadline is the worry that students might add a class far too late in the term to catch up. Despite the long tradition of a “drop/add deadline,” however, dropping and adding are not inseparable. To help students avoid the dreaded “W,” the University should extend the period in which a student can drop a class.
Also, the University should require instructors to make syllabi available before the course begins so that students can make more informed choices when registering for classes. If a mid-level course in fact entails the workload of a graduate course, students should know that in advance.
LSA has made some concessions to frustrated students seeking a little guidance and more time to finalize their schedules. Although LSA Advising has temporarily moved to a lonesome outpost on Liberty Street, it has opened quick-question advising stations in Angell Hall to reach more students. LSA also recently agreed to allow freshmen to drop one “W” from their transcript – a victory for students, but one that shows that even the administration recognizes the drop/add deadline doesn’t make sense.
With the option to drop a class or take it pass/fail gone only three weeks into the semester, LSA’s policy is too unforgiving to students. A student who drops a class after the deadline already loses his tuition money and credit for the course. Adding a “W” is an unnecessary added punishment.