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Berkeleyan

New drop/add deadline goes into effect for fall semester

| 12 April 2005

For students, the long decision-making process that dominates the first eight weeks of classes resembles a mini-marathon in which they sign up for, evaluate, and drop and add classes to nail down their desired schedules. Beginning in fall 2005, that transition period will be truncated when the deadline by which students must drop or add classes moves to the end of the fifth week of the semester. Currently, the drop/add deadline is the end of the eighth week of instruction.

Dean Robert Holub of the Letters and Science Undergraduate Division spearheaded the change, after noticing that seats in high-demand classes were left vacant because students would drop these classes too late in the semester for others to get their slots. Holub consulted with everyone on campus who might have an opinion on the proposed change, including the chancellor, vice provosts, vice chancellors, the Council of Undergraduate Deans, advisers in L&S and Student Life Advising Services, and ASUC representatives. In addition to conducting face-to-face meetings, when Holub set up a website inviting input on the issue he received e-mails from 800 undergrads.

Additional changed deadlines
For a small number of courses that are both in great demand and have high attrition rates, the drop deadline will be at the end of the second week of instruction.Those courses are Architecture 100A-100B; Biology 1B; Arabic 1A and Persian 1B in Near Eastern Studies; Physics 7A-7B, 8A-8B; Sociology 3 and 3 AC, and Spanish 1 and 2.

The deadline to change the grading option from Pass/Not Pass (P/NP) to a letter grade will also move to Friday of the fifth week of instruction, while the deadline to alter the grading option from a letter grade to P/NP will be the end of the tenth week of instruction. Allowing students to change to P/NP in week 10 gives students a safety net, says Holub. If they're doing badly in a course, they can change their grading option so that their GPA won't be affected adversely.
While he was not able to "bring everyone on board," Holub is convinced that the earlier deadline "will help all around." Under the current system, instructors sometimes delay assigning group projects, reports, and in-class presentations, because they are uncertain which students will continue in the class. "Courses will settle down earlier in the term," says Holub, who believes the change will benefit undergrads while helping the campus use its resources more effectively.

Benefits for faculty, GSIs, and staff alike

With class rosters solidified earlier in the semester, faculty and graduate-student instructors will no longer need to spend time grading the papers of those students who disappear halfway through the term. In addition, faculty will be able to focus on the course's substance sooner, knowing that students won't be drifting in and out of class any longer.

Drop/add forms will become a thing of the past, since students will now handle those transactions via TeleBears, which will remain active through week five each semester. With the administrative burden of signing drop/add forms lifted comes the responsibility, however, of tracking which students are or are not actually attending the class. Administrative-support staff will add students to courses based on lists submitted by faculty members.

In addition to making a detailed syllabus available and explaining expectations the first day of class, faculty can help students adjust to the new deadlines by posting a syllabus online using CourseWeb (courseweb.berkeley.edu), the user-friendly course website tool, before registration begins. Doing so will give students access to in-depth course information before they actually sign up for classes.

Department student-services staff stand to benefit from the new deadlines as well. Currently, they spend weeks four through eight processing drop/add forms. Now, says Holub, they'll be freed from this clerical task to focus on the more rewarding activity of advising students.

Faculty members with questions about the new deadlines are invited to contact Alix Schwartz, director of academic planning, in L&S's undergraduate division, at alix@berkeley.edu or 642-8378.