Add-drop period to drop to 2 weeks

By Amy Ledig

The usual scramble to switch classes at the beginning of the semester will have to be condensed next spring. Educational Policy and Governance voted Tuesday to shorten the add-drop period at the beginning of each semester from three weeks to two, but to lengthen the period to designate a grading option to four weeks. “We’ll have to play with the language because technically it’s not even three weeks now in some semesters,” EPAG Chair and Psychology Professor Kendrick Brown said, “but what we voted in was to shorten that period from the traditional three weeks to two weeks to add or drop a class.”

The change in grading option designation time will allow students more time to decide whether to take a class pass-fail or for a letter grade. Students are able to take one class pass-fail each semester.

“What that was traditionally was three weeks, now it will become four weeks, so that gives students a little more time in the classroom to decide what makes the most sense depending on their learning needs and based on their assessment of how the class fits with those needs,” Brown said.

The change will still allow for flexibility in some cases. The registrar will still have the ability to finesse situations involving getting graduating seniors into classes they need.

Brown added that additional leeway would be given in the case of internships.

“We’re allowing for discretion in some cases regarding internships because sometimes internships are held up not because of the student or the faculty, but because of something going on off-campus,” Brown said. “We wanted to allow some discretion there and the registrar will talk to the Internship Director Michael Porter as well as the faculty sponsor to sort of get a sense of what’s going on there, so we allow for some flexibility there.”

Brown said that the push began when a faculty member expressed concern about the effect late additions to his class was having on groups being formed and the development of a learning community.

“I support the decision for a number of reasons: it’s in line with the practices at many of our peer institutions, it helps faculty know sooner who is really in the class and discourages ‘shopping’ around, and perhaps more importantly, it fits better with new models of pedagogy and seeing a class really as a ‘class’ and not simply an aggregate of individual students. Not to mention the most important reason perhaps, which is that if you start a class in the third week you’ve really missed a healthy percentage of the course, and so your chances of succeeding in that course are diminished,” Provost Diane Michelfelder wrote in an email. “For the above reasons, I believe that most faculty will welcome this change warmly.”

This certainly seems to be the case.

“There’s a lot of what I term ‘class shopping’ at the beginning of the semester, and it seems to me that by two weeks people should know what classes they want to be in,” said Dan Hornbach, chair of the Environmental Studies department. “The reason it’s an issue is that you have students looking to get into a class, and the class is full [but then that changes.]”

“I think one consideration that motivated those who favor shortening the add/drop period to two weeks is that such late changes have a detrimental effect on courses (and hence on other students enrolled in them),” German professor and EPAG member David Martyn wrote in an email. “Many courses now involve student participation in a way that was not as common 10 or 20 years ago. In a lecture-style course, late shifts have no big effect, but when a course involves group participation or team-work, shifts in and out three weeks into the term can be disruptive for everybody, not just the instructors.”

“There’s a whole lot of catching up that students have to go through because they’re given three weeks instead of two,” said Peter Weisensel, chair of the History department and EPAG member. He emphasized that students will just have to do better research before registering, and that they should meet with the professor if they are unsure of the class.

Some students are unhappy about the change and unsure why it is even necessary.

“Professors always have the right to say yes or no,” Thuto Thipe ’10 said. “I’ve had a professor tell me they’ve done too much [for me to come in.]

“I don’t understand what the problem is. The professor is always in their rights to tell you the [semester is too far along.]”

“Three weeks is barely enough time as it is to know if you like the class,” Arjay Velasco ’10 said.

Sonam Kindy ’11 said that the longer time was good because it allowed more time for students to move around and thus more flexibility.

“People have the option to get into classed they couldn’t earlier,” she said.

Brown acknowledged the negative response students had been giving toward the change, but added that overall it would be a good move.

“What we got from the feedback was of course a number of students don’t want it to be changed, but what we really had to balance out was, is it still possible for students to get a feel for what the course is like in those two weeks and to make decisions based on that, balance that with the needs of faculty.”

Students have a while to get used to the change, though.

“We thought we’ve got a lot of exceptional things going on in the fall semester: Because of the Republican National Convention we’re starting earlier; we’re finishing earlier; we have the change in the Tuesday-Thursday time, so to add in a change in the add-drop time on top of that seemed like a bit much for students to contend with – and faculty, to be honest,” Brown said. “We thought that delaying this until the spring semester would give everyone a chance to at least get familiar with some of the other things going on.”

One issue that has been raised is the problematic position students in night classes, which only meet once a week, will be placed in. These students will only have two class periods in which to evaluate the fit of the class, something Brown said could not be helped.

“We did our best to try to accommodate as many situations as we can and unfortunately you can’t anticipate all of the possible situations that might arise so we did our best to try to say, okay, given that the majority of classes are three days of the week or two days of the week, would that provide enough of a sample for students to decide if that fits, would this allow faculty members to be able to create the learning community that they want? Based on all of that, we decided that this change made sense.”

“I won’t lie, on the face of it some students might see this as something that won’t be desirable but at the same time I think it will be something that will help their learning in the long run. I still think it’s possible for students to make informed decisions, it’s just going to be in two weeks as opposed to three weeks and my understanding is that a lot of that exploration occurs in the first two weeks and then people turn in their slips by the third week,” Brown said. “I don’t think we’re going to hurt people too much.