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College Curriculum Council, students consider shift in drop deadline date

Herald poll results show students slightly oppose decision to move deadline to earlier date in semester

By and
Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Earlier this year, the College Curriculum Council put forth a proposal to alter the course drop date deadline from the day before finals to the middle of October. The Herald’s 2017 Fall Poll results  revealed that a slim majority of students — 51.1 percent — oppose the CCC’s proposal to move the drop date deadline, with some difference in opinion between class years. First-years were the most likely to support the proposal, with half in support. The majority of every other class opposed the proposal — sophomores most strongly opposed it at 57.1 percent.

Keith Mills ’18, who works as an academic coach, was skeptical about the proposal. “I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said. “Mid-semester, students may not feel that bad about the course. … The majority of classes only have one midterm, which is usually the easier one. … The decisions they make then, might not be the right ones for later.” Also, this deadline would be too close to the early S/NC deadline, he said.

The earlier deadline would contradict Brown’s academic freedom and the Open Curriculum, said Michael Abela ’21. “The (current) deadline encourages students to take classes they normally wouldn’t take because they know they have that option still,” Abela said. “Knowing the deadline is there alleviates some stress for some people.”

Alex Vidmar ’18, who attended the October forum and works in the Curricular Resource Center, also opposed the proposal in relation to Brown’s academic philosophy. “What (the Open Curriculum) really means is (that) students have the opportunity to take classes they want to and design their time at Brown. … Eliminating the option for students to record a drop later in the semester is removing a choice,” he said.

Vidmar suggested that students should be required to meet with an advisor and get an override code if they wish to drop a class, requiring students to consider the potential side effects of their decision. “Having more coaching throughout … (is needed) in order to make a better decision,” he said. Vidmar also advocated for the CCC to move the S/NC deadline further into the semester. “You could have people actually staying in that class, getting the credit and staying off of academic probation.”

Tyco Mera Evans ’20 sees the validity of lessening the focus on final grades, which an earlier drop date could accomplish. Students who drop a course just to avoid a bad final grade “can be seen as just students who want to ‘look good on paper,’” he said. An earlier deadline “will force students to care about the class and put in the work to get the good grade in the end,” he said. Evans also suggested pushing the S/NC deadline further back and offered alternatives to dropping a course, such as auditing or asking the professor for an override code to retake the course the following semester.

Since the CCC held its forum in mid-October to discuss the proposal, it has been inundated with feedback from the Brown community.

“Feedback from the community from all constituents … impacts (the) CCC’s thinking about this,” said Dean of the College Maud Mandel.

“People go out of their way to send … feedback by email,” said Andrew Kutscher ’18, a student representative on the CCC.

“I’ve really appreciated the space on the committee that has been made for student feedback,” said Raphaela Posner ’18, another student representative on the CCC.

The committee has voted to put off a vote on the proposal, Mandel said. The committee will make the decision “pending some work by the Office of the Dean of the College to think through some advising structures for students who might want to drop a class.”

In response to the suggestions made about moving the S/NC deadline, Mandel said that it was “not currently a motion.”

The proposal has proven to be more complex than first thought, Posner said. Both Posner and Kutscher mentioned the CCC is planning to add an advising component to the proposal before moving forward on the motion. “We brought it back to the full CCC, … where we explained student feedback and practical limitations … and a need for an advising part, and basically agreed to table it for now,” Kutscher said.

Mandel explained that the feedback the CCC received could potentially alter the proposal, though the CCC has not had a chance to meet since The Herald released its poll results. “It’s possible the original motion could experience a straight up or down vote. It’s possible it would be modified based on information about advising. … It’s possible we decide just not to move forward on (it).”