The Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) unanimously passed a resolution to oppose the proposed shortening of the Drop/Add period from two weeks to one week. The resolution is intended to demonstrate students’ disapproval of the proposal to the University administration and an ad-hoc committee created to discuss the possibility of shortening Drop/Add.
“We’ve always had complaints that Drop/Add is either too short or that it should not be any shorter,” said WSA Academic Affairs Committee Chair Mari Jarris ’14. “So we knew immediately that this was something students opposed and that we opposed.”
The ad-hoc committee that discussed the shortening consists of officials from the Office of Academic Affairs, the Registrar’s Office, several deans and one member of the WSA Academic Affairs committee. After the shortening was first discussed in early October, the WSA issued a survey asking students to express their opinions on whether or not the Drop/Add period should be shortened. Of the 325 students who responded, 92 percent opposed this idea and 6 percent supported it.
“This wasn’t particularly surprising, because I think students value flexibility in their academic life,” said WSA President Zachary Malter ’13. “Having a two week Drop/Add period for students represents the opportunity to shop for various courses, to experiment, and come up with a schedule that works well for them. I think all of these things are enabled by this Drop/Add period that really maximizes choice. So I think [the survey] is really consistent with the philosophy of Wesleyan students.”
President Michael Roth explained that one reason for shortening the Drop/Add period would be to prevent students from starting a class already substantially behind on coursework.
“I think a lot of students wind up adding a course at a point when they have missed a considerable amount of work,” he said. “We can’t pretend that work isn’t being done during the Drop/Add period; we aren’t going to tell teachers not to teach for a couple of weeks while students decide. Some students find themselves quite far behind by the time they’ve joined a course and we wanted to limit that.”
According to Jarris, many of the students who responded in the survey were quite passionate in their opposition to the idea of shortening the period and seemed generally satisfied with the situation as is.
During the WSA General Assembly Meeting, the resolution opposing any shortening of Drop/Add passed unanimously with 19 votes in favor and 4 abstentions. The resolution also mentioned the reasons why the WSA believed it necessary to have a two week period of Drop/Add, while acknowledging the right that professors have to forbid further enrollment in their courses at any point.
“Hopefully the committee will take the idea [to shorten Drop/Add] off the table completely,” Malter said. “I think that’s the goal of the resolution. It would be particularly disconcerting if it still remained in consideration given how overwhelmingly the students seem to oppose it.”
Both students and faculty have discussed several other ideas to address problems with course registration, which became more prominent in the 2011 fall semester due partly to the increase in the freshman class size. One such idea was to provide more information about courses by putting syllabi online. Another suggestion was to diversify courses by encouraging professors to rotate the electives they teach each semester.
Jarris believes that limiting the number of courses students can enroll in during the first week of drop-add could also increase course access.
“This would make sure that some students didn’t hoard courses and enroll in seven courses only to drop several of them at the last minute,” Jarris said. “This would help make sure there was equity across the board.”
Another idea, which was previously implemented during the 2009-2010 academic year, was to evenly distribute courses across the schedule. The registrar would require that 20 percent of classes take place before 11 a.m., 40 percent of classes take place between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and the remaining 40 percent of classes would be scheduled in the afternoon and evening. There have currently been talks to re-implement this in the future at the University.
“This made it so that all the intro courses weren’t at the same time,” Jarris said. “According to [University Registrar] Anna van der Burg, during the year it was enforced it solved many of the course access problems.”
The future of Drop/Add remains uncertain as many potential changes are being considered to help solve issues with course access. However, the WSA believes that this resolution and its accompanying survey will ensure that there will be no future talks about shortening the Drop/Add period.