Quick-Takes: New Drop Deadline

Starting in Fall 2018, students will no longer be able to drop a class with a W by the end of Week 9. Instead, dropping a class after Week 6 will result in an F — instead of a W. Does this change incentivize students to engage more with material? Or does it disadvantage students who need more time?

The New Deadline Fails to Return Grades Faster, but Succeeds in Intimidating Engaged Students

The decision to shift forward the deadline to drop with a “W” is founded on two points: First, it intends to compel professors and teaching assistants to return grades more quickly, and second, it means to increase student attentiveness by obliging self-evaluation. It fails both goals.

Returning graded midterms to students earlier is an admirable goal but not a realistic one. The new deadline assumes that the time it takes to properly grade midterms is dependent upon how effortful TAs and professors happen to feel that week. In reality, grading is an uphill battle where the hill consists of stacks upon stacks of midterms. So, it unfortunately takes as long as it takes. Also, the deadline change ignores the second round of exams that many courses administer after Week 6. This forces students to drop with fewer scores by which to measure their comprehension of the material. The timeline for administering exams cannot feasibly change in response to the new deadline either. Midterms test the material covered in class, so exams would either have to become more frequent but test less content, or happen rarely but become very content-dense. The first alternative would actually increase time to grade — as the stacks of midterms grow ever taller — and the second would give students even fewer opportunities to gauge their comprehension of the material.

The other argument — that students who would otherwise drop a course will be compelled to drop earlier — ignores the fact that students learn at different rates. It’s certainly true that some students who drop do so because they chose not to put in a meaningful effort. The new deadline will decidedly address some of these students. However, some students simply find themselves unable to keep up with the speed of a class. In that case, not only would the deadline intimidate well-intentioned, engaged students into dropping, it would disproportionately disadvantage students who face issues with family, mental health, and financial struggles. The current, more prolonged deadline gives students significantly more time to accommodate their needs while still working towards the end goal of learning and retaining the knowledge needed from the course.

The “W” deadline change represents one of the fundamental flaws in the way UC San Diego makes academic decisions — changes often occur without student input. Many students vehemently oppose this new rule, not because we demand more wiggle room with our grades, but because any argument operating under the assumption that students and faculty are actively ineffectual is ignorant of the individual struggles students face.


The New Deadline Trains Students to Stay Attentive and Effortful in their Coursework

College is a time where we learn to develop into fully functional human beings. And while the knowledge gained in the classroom is important, it is the lessons learned outside of the classroom that are most important. One such lesson is how to prioritize our various obligations, specifically in regard to how we can utilize our time efficiently. The recent change in the course drop deadline has this lesson in mind; we must learn to gauge our abilities in the classroom in a timely fashion in order to succeed. Even so, this lesson is a hard pill to swallow, with many students outraged by the recent change.

However, this change is vital to the Triton community. First, this change will put pressure on our professors to grade assignments in a timely manner. Many of us are frustrated that for most of the quarter, we have no grades. This new legislation will encourage professors to reformat how they allocate their time in regard to grading, allowing us to better gauge our progress.

Further, this change will encourage students to put in the maximum effort possible into a course if they are truly determined to succeed in the subject. Often times, students who drop so late in the quarter do so because they are not pleased with their grades. However, attending college is not about getting the grade you want: It is about getting the grade that reflects your effort. With this change, students will be forced to make these tough decisions early on, rather than being allowed to wait until Week 9 without ever learning this concept. Additionally, this will teach students to understand their own capabilities in the classroom, teaching us what our maximum workloads are based on our individual learning speeds.

While it may not appear to be this way, college is a place to make mistakes. In the long run, not getting the grades we want in a handful of classes will not affect our life trajectories. This change may seem alarming now. However, because we will learn to self-evaluate our performance in our classes prior to Week 6, we will eventually accept and welcome this new deadline.