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.

Sarah Royce

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.

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