Revised Policy Regulates Use of 'W' Mark By Undergrads

After a year of deliberation, the Academic Senate’s Committee on Educational Policy has agreed upon new, more stringent guidelines for the granting of “Withdrawal” marks on undergraduate transcripts.

The new grading stratagem will allow students only one “W” per course throughout their careers at UCSD. Further withdrawals will result in an “F” or “No Pass” grade, depending on the student’s desired grading option.

Former CEP Chairman Kim Griest said discussion about the future of the “W” mark began several years ago, when faculty and administration expressed concern about students withdrawing from the same class multiple times.

“Everything passed pretty easily with almost everyone supporting the change,” Griest said. “We [also conducted] a student survey, and found that the majority of students supported [it].”

Griest said the change in policy was not provoked by any specific incident, but in response to professors and lecturers troubled by the rate at which students enroll in classes only to withdraw after the add/drop deadline has passed, thereby preventing waitlisted students from enrolling in the class.

Throughout the year, the CEP examined the withdrawal policies of various peer universities, such as UC Berkeley and UC Irvine, to determine an appropriate set of rules for UCSD.

Both Berkeley and Irvine require students to petition in order to withdraw, whereas UCSD has allowed students the freedom to drop classes, with their GPAs unaffected, until the end of ninth week.

Rather than requiring a written withdrawal request from students, the CEP decided to leave students with the freedom to drop late in the quarter.

However, the drop privilege is now allowed only once per course, a requirement meant to stress to students the significance of their decision to withdraw.

Earl Warren College junior Matthew Goodsell predicted that the new, stricter policy will have a positive influence on the student body.

“The change doesn’t really affect me,” Goodsell said. “If anything, it was a long time coming. It teaches that you must have discipline at a prestigious university.”

Thurgood Marshall College junior Audrey Wang said the new policy serves as a necessary check against abuse of the withdrawal option.

“I think people who are constantly withdrawing from one class don’t give a crap about school in the first place,” Wang said. “How can you not know if you are going to drop until that late in the quarter?”

Sixth College senior Ganesa Sabaj, however, claims to have found a drawback to the new change: Interdisciplinary majors, such as those in Interdisciplinary Computing in the Arts, often require students to take courses from opposite fields of study, such as visual arts and computer science.

Sabaj said that students within her major sometimes struggle with these more science-oriented courses, and that they depend on the “W” as a means of safely dropping courses.
“I think the change is kind of harsh,” Sabaj said. “It seems like the university has decided to go from one extreme to another. I think something like a ‘three strikes’ policy seems more like the middle way.”

According to Academic Senate regulations, the only exception to the new policy will be cases in which a course is given an “In Progress” mark. This status allows students to finish a course beyond a normal quarter timeframe, and transforms into a grade once the course is completed.

“IP” grades require a stringent petition conducted by the Academic Senate, which asks students to explain why they need additional time to complete the class in question.
The new policy will not affect multiple “W” marks received in classes prior to Fall Quarter 2008.