It is only three weeks into the school
year and the drop/add deadline is already at students’ heels.
Sept. 27, this coming Monday, is judgment day for students still
contemplating their class schedules. The deadline, a mere 15 days
into the semester, never fails to sneak up on many students, who,
at this point, are still shuffling through syllabuses and sampling
the University’s wealth of courses. Despite its
organizational intents, the University’s drop/add deadline
inevitably arrives prematurely, often forcing unnecessarily hasty
decisions upon students still scrambling to settle into the campus
community.

Janna Hutz

Three weeks, which equates to roughly a half dozen lectures and
one or two assignments, is hardly an ample time span for students
to achieve the comprehensive understanding of a particular class
they deserve when finalizing their schedules. By this time, a
typical course will have had little or no graded work turned in,
and students will not have a chance to become familiar with an
instructor’s test format. A student may drop a course for a
number of reasons: Course loads turn out to be heavier than
anticipated, classes are not always as interesting as their
descriptions made them out to be or students may not want to risk a
painful blow to their grade point average. Often, it is only after
the first exam or paper has been graded that a student will know
for sure if he or she made the right choice. Under the current
policy, by the time the first test is handed back, a dissatisfied
student cannot leave the class unless he is willing to brand his
transcript with an undesired ‘W.’

The University argues that after three weeks, students switching
in and out of courses would be too far behind, and an extended
drop/add deadline may be detrimental for students’ grades.
This save-them-from-themselves mentality, while thoughtful, fails
to address the widely held and often vocalized concerns of the
student body. When it comes to putting together class schedules,
responsible, tuition-paying students at a nationally acclaimed
University deserve the discretion to decide for themselves. If by
three weeks into the school year, a student has yet to attend a
certain class, it would be safe to assume he would have the common
sense not to register for it.

Aside from prolonging the drop/add deadline, there are other
viable policy solutions for administrators to consider. Ivy League
schools like Harvard, Yale and Brown use a two-week-long
“shopping” period — a popular and effective
alternative to the University’s rushed deadline. During this
two-week period, students have a light workload and ample time to
test the waters, providing a stress-free timetable for formulating
their schedules.

Another important, but often overlooked element of the
“drop/add” deadline is that it corresponds with the
“pass/fail” deadline. After the deadline passes,
students cannot change whether they take a class for a grade or
simply for pass or fail credit. Considering that students elect
classes as pass/fail when they are faced with a GPA-threatening
course, it is ridiculous to force students into deciding how to
take a course before any major assignments have been returned.

Dropping a course, or even deciding to take it pass/fail, is no
small matter. Concerned students deserve time to receive important
grades, gain an all-inclusive understanding of the class’s
purpose and gauge the workload. But most importantly, in
considering whether they are responsible enough to shop for classes
for more than three weeks, students deserve the benefit of the
doubt.

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