EDITORIALS

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October 17, 2008

Suffering from withdrawal

The University should follow the example of peer institutions and give students more freedom to drop their classes well into the quarter.

After today, your fate is sealed. There is no turning back, no reneging, no mulligans—the class schedule you have now is yours for good. Barring an ill-fated “W,” you’ll be receiving a grade for all the courses you’re in after third week, for better or for worse.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The University should follow the example of peer institutions and give students more freedom to drop their classes well into the quarter. Specifically, it should adopt a policy similar to that at Brown, which allows its attendees to drop a class up until finals week.

As it currently stands, the College’s three-week drop period requires students to make a premature judgment about whether a class is right for them. By third week, many students have yet to take a midterm or hand in a paper and thus have no idea whether their class schedule is a perfect fit or whether they’re in over their heads. A longer drop zone would allow students to make better decisions about their schedules, rather than forcing them to try to figure out in October whether they’ll be able to manage four classes in December. The change would also benefit those who, in the liberal arts tradition of the University, want to sample courses outside their area of primary interest without risking serious damage to their GPAs.

Admittedly, it’s an extreme notion: A student could conceivably coast by for 10 weeks in a class and then, with just the click of a button, wipe his transcript clean of any mention of the past two and a half months of laziness. But such a scenario seems far-fetched; after all, those who wish to attend a class and not do any work can, in most cases, simply choose to audit it.

More importantly, there are enough consequences to dropping a class to deter students from abusing the privilege. Students who drop a class late in the quarter would lose course credit, for example, along with dozens of long hours spent in the Reg. Additionally, if the class is required for a major or the Core, the student would still have to take it again down the road.

For most students, these would be incentives enough to bite the bullet and see the class through to the end. But for extenuating circumstances, students should have the flexibility to drop courses and prioritize as they see fit.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.