Administrative Prudence Essential in Regulating ‘W’ Policy

With lingering concern regarding the integrity of the
campus’ current course withdrawal policy, members of the Academic Senate’s
Committee on Educational Policy have begun to take a closer look at what some
faculty have deemed a broken system.

Although the senate has yet to introduce an official
proposal on “W” policy changes, senate members are discussing procedures to
restrict abuse and overuse of the system.

One consideration would implement a petition process modeled
after UC Berkeley and UC Irvine, under which students are required to explain
their reason for requesting withdrawal.

This suggestion, however, would dramatically increase
bureaucracy and paperwork, resulting in higher costs for the administration and
reduced accessibility for students who value the system’s flexibility.

While the CEP’s decision to continue researching UCSD “W”
patterns and frequencies is promising, variables affecting trends like drop
deadlines and academic terms are innumerable and as such, the senate should
tread lightly when considering any policy modifications.

For example, when comparing UCSD’s withdrawal patterns to
those of UC Berkeley, the senate should account for differences between the
semester and quarter systems, which offer varying degrees of leniency for
students.

The drop deadline itself may also contribute to increased
withdrawal levels. While administrators typically set the drop deadline during
fourth week, many students don’t have midterms until fifth or sixth week and
therefore cannot foresee possible problems that might force them to drop a
course.

Furthermore, without knowing their midterm grades, students
struggle to judge their class standing. This hinders their ability to determine
if classes match their skills or course and extracurricular activity load.

As administrators consider alterations, they must keep these
factors, as well as the host of others affecting UCSD’s course withdrawal
levels, in mind.

Given that officials acknowledge the need for more insight
before an actual decision is made, it is perplexing that they nixed CEP Chair
Kim Griest’s suggestion to form a subcommittee that would focus on evaluating
the need for policy updates. Instead, they opted to have all CEP members
collaborate on an effort that will likely be much more difficult to coordinate.

But before members break ground on any research, this board
has one request — that they take a long, hard look at why they feel the need to
meddle with student affairs.

Their lofty goal of reducing wasted classroom space caused
by unnecessary withdrawals underscores a longstanding injustice. While students
increasingly foot the bill for their education, administrators still unfairly
bereave them of their ability to control how their money is spent.

If it’s student fees that pay for classroom space, shouldn’t
students be able to use the system as they choose without administrative
interference? (Assuming they are, in fact, abusing it at all.)

Recognitition of inequality by administrators, however, is
unlikely, so until students regain control over their own education they will
be left waiting while the Academic Senate takes the reigns. Students’ only
choice is to hope administrators realize something they already know — the
system is far from broken.

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