In the spirit of compromise, administrators for the College of Literature, Science and the Arts will vote on pushing back the drop/add deadline for first semester freshmen and transfer students. If passed, the proposal will grant students more time to evaluate and drop classes without receiving a “W” on their transcripts. While the move represents a small step forward, greater reform is still needed for the entire student body.
With the broad range of classes offered by the University, students often need time to “shop around” in order to find a schedule. The current drop/add deadline gives students only three weeks — five or six classes — to evaluate their classes and balance their schedule. Because most classes start off with a light workload and simple, introductory material, even the most responsible students can be ambushed by a class whose description inaccurately portrays its difficulty. In addition, alternative teaching styles appeal to different students, and students need time to determine which professor’s approach best matches their individual learning styles.
The University contends that a ‘W’ on a student’s transcript does not imply a poor class performance, but students often fear the “W” will tarnish their record nearly as much as a failing grade. In reality, students drop classes for a variety of reasons: illness, family emergency or a heavier-than-expected course load. By the time students receive any significant assignments in a given class, it is often too late to drop without the dreaded “W.”
University officials also assert that a longer drop/add period will interfere with the wait list system. But if the University can offer this later drop/add period to freshmen, it should be able to extend it to all students regardless of class standing. Furthermore, administrators say that allowing students to add classes later in the semester will place those students too far behind the class and interrupt the flow of a course. But, if only the drop deadline were extended and the add deadline were to stay the same, this problem would be avoided. Students are often more worried about the drop deadline and the ‘‘W’’ than they are about adding a course later in the semester.
Some schools, including universities like Brown, Harvard and Yale, hold a “shopping period” in which professors maintain light course loads to encourage students to sample a broad range of courses before selecting a final schedule. This option encourages students to both view their interests and analyze the projected course load. However, this solution is not ideal. While it allows students to chose the most interesting classes, the intentionally light curriculum does not let them gauge workloads.
The new LSA system not only gives students more time to pick classes, it allows them to alter their schedules based upon actual classroom experience, not speculation based on credit hours and syllabi. It is commendable that college administrators proposed these changes in an effort to ease the transition to college life for new students. Now, the University must complete its reforms and expand the changes to all students.