Senate Reconsiders Course Withdrawal Policy

    The UCSD Academic Senate, the governing on-campus body that
    dictates policies on academic integrity and procedures, is currently
    considering revamping its policy on the accessibility of the withdrawal mark on
    academic transcripts.

    Use of the withdrawal mark — denoted on transcripts as a “W”
    — is universal throughout the University
    of California
    system.
    This course mark is assigned to students who decide to drop a class between
    fifth week and the end of ninth week. The mark does not affect a student’s GPA,
    and the class may be retaken for a grade.

    Currently, UCSD students may drop a class after the fourth
    week of class without any sort of petition process. The ease of the current
    withdrawal policy has raised concerns of various faculty and administrative
    members, who brought their concerns to the Academic Senate.

    The Committee on Educational Policy, the committee in the
    Academic Senate that possesses grading jurisdiction, investigated the policy,
    and committee members have remained attentive to the possibility that students
    may be abusing the grading option, which is designed for use as a last resort.

    Physics professor and CEP Chair Kim Griest said the senate
    has been mulling the “W” policy for several years to see if it needs updating.

    Though dropping a class later in a quarter may give a
    student another chance to improve his or her performance, it produces wasted
    space in sometimes overpopulated classrooms.

    A.S. Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Long Pham,
    who serves as the sole student representative in the Academic Senate, brought
    the senate’s consideration of policy change to the A.S. Council at its Oct. 11
    meeting.

    He said that the senate is considering restricting the
    accessibility of withdrawing from a class, based on a review of withdrawal
    policies at other UC campuses.

    CEP dedicated a significant amount of its research to
    gathering information from other UC campuses about their withdrawal policies,
    and found that they vary widely from campus to campus, Pham said.

    UC Berkeley and UC Irvine require students to fill out a
    petition form and give a valid reason for withdrawing, whereas UC Riverside,
    like UCSD, does not require a petition process.

    According to Griest, many faculty members and administrators
    have expressed strong concerns about students easily withdrawing from classes
    and retaking them multiple times.

    Griest has recommended that a formal subcommittee be formed
    to research UCSD’s withdrawal policy to find if there is a legitimate problem.

    The proposal was rejected by
    CEP, which determined such decisions would be made during its meetings.
    No changes have yet taken place, and research into the matter is likely to
    occur throughout the year.

    “The CEP is only at a very early data-gathering stage in
    this process — determining the frequency and pattern of ‘W’ option usage at
    UCSD, as well as seeing how this compares to what is conducted at the other UC
    campuses,” Academic Senate Chair Jim Posakony said. “At this point, it is very
    unclear whether CEP will propose any change to the ‘W’ option at all, and
    there’s certainly no existing proposal to do so.”

    Some students value the policy’s current flexibility, which
    allows them to make last-minute decisions without bureaucratic delay.

    “Restricting the ‘W’ option is a bad idea,” Eleanor
    Roosevelt College junior Madeline Phillips said. “So many circumstances could
    lead to a student deciding to withdraw from a class.”

    Other students worry that restricting the policy could harm
    students dealing with extenuating circumstances that affect their academic
    performance.

    “Students do not always take a ‘W’ just because they are
    slacking off in a class,” Roosevelt senior
    Kayta Orlova said. “It may be because of sudden circumstances such as a death
    in the family, or because they realize they just have too much on their plate,
    which sometimes cannot be foreseen.”

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