Debating Whether to Extend Add/Drop

The add/drop period is a fundamental aspect of the academic process. During the first two weeks of each semester the registrar’s office is busier than ever. Students must quickly decide whether to stay in a challenging class, or what they will do if they cannot get in to a class they desperately need. Professors must adjust to new faces and re-adjust on a daily basis until the add/drop period is over. The add/drop period at UVM is ten academic days. The question on many students and faculty member’s minds is, is the add/drop period too long or not long enough? “My parents are going to kill me if I fail another class!” freshman Meg Lesnikoski exclaimed upon receiving her first physics grade of the semester. It is too late to drop the class and if Meg withdraws she will receive the dreaded “W” on her transcript. “This is my first grade, how was I supposed to know that I would fail in the first two weeks of school? It’s not fair!” Meg protested. Does Meg have a valid point? Is it possible for students to know enough about a course and whether it is a proper fit within the two-week add/drop period? Many students feel that the add/drop period should be extended. There are many variables that play a role when deciding to stay in a class or not. What is the professor like? How much reading is involved? Is the class at 8am? These are some of the questions students ask themselves when trying to decide whether or not a class is worth taking. It also must be considered that if one decides to stay in a class and then has to drop it later, they will be penalized. Others feel that the add/drop period should be extended in hopes that they will be able to add a class. If the period were longer maybe more students that don’t want to be in a specific course would drop it, thus making room for a student that wants to be in the class. Faculty members on the other hand feel quite the opposite. “It has been my experience that late ads very rarely – almost never – make good students. They’re people who are trying to fill a time slot or are in desperate need of credits rather than people who are taking a course because they’re interested. They rarely feel motivated to do well, and generally contribute little to the class. I think the add/drop period should be a week shorter,” Professor Thornton said. Not all professors feel this way. However, many faculty members are concerned that students will have a difficult time catching up. Depending on the course, classes can cover a great amount of material within the first two weeks, and a student walking in even a few days late may not have an easy time fully catching up. The Student Government Association passed a resolution concerning the add/drop period on the fourteenth of March. The resolution was in support of keeping the add period at ten academic days and extending the drop period an extra five academic days. By extending the drop period an extra five academic days students will have the opportunity to better evaluate the course, and decide whether or not they wish to stay in it. Students may agree that extending the drop period would help, but it is not their decision. In order to make a policy change a proposal must be passed through the Faculty Senate. The Faculty Senate has discussed a change in the add/ drop policy this year, but the issue has faded out. Justin Joffe has been president since last summer, and a part of the UVM faculty for 37 years. Joffe explained the issue is brought up occasionally from both angles, but it hasn’t changed since Joffe has been at UVM. Although there is no student vote, it is surprisingly easy to initiate policy change. If any faculty member is willing to propose a policy change and another faculty member is willing to second the proposal, the Faculty Senate will consider it. The proper committee from the senate will research the proposal, present it to the executive board and then the executive board will present the proposal to the full senate. This sounds like a sticky process, but it is quite optimistic. Joffe said that proposals often pass unanimously, and student attendance is always welcome at Faculty Senate meetings. Pertaining specifically to the add/drop proposal, there are many factors to consider. By extending solely the drop period this would limit students from adding courses after spaces open up. “Some will drop, but not be able to add another course to their load,” Joffe said. The Internet has become another factor, since the majority of courses now have syllabuses online. Students have the ability to research their classes, professors, and even text books weeks or months in advance. “Students looking harder at courses before they add is a possible solution,” Joffe stated. However, if students would like to extend the period the Faculty Senate is certainly open to suggestions. One suggestion that was made was to shorten the add/drop period. This proposal faded out as well. There is already a policy in place that allows professors to veto a student from adding a class after the first five academic days. The two reasons that a professor could do this are if a student has not obtained prerequisites or if a student has missed too many classes. In other words, if a student is not enrolled in a class during the first week, a professor has the right to not allow them to enroll. Registrar Keith Williams explained that this policy is very rarely used, but since it is in existence there would be no point in shortening the add/drop period. Williams said that it is usually the sciences that want a later drop deadline because the early classes are often used for reviewing material, and it is the arts that want an earlier drop deadline because there is a high demand on a limited amount of space. “We have a very common model,” Keith said about the UVM add/drop policy. Nearly every student makes a change to their schedule during the first two weeks of school. Even the students who have been block scheduled because of their major make changes. Those that implement the policy, such as Williams, do not see a need of change until the students see a need for change. The Student Government Association resolution is the most recent action, but it has yet to be presented to the Faculty Senate.