At Stanford, the end of September means a new academic calendar, a new host of classes to manage on Axess, and a familiar suspicion that your course schedule will change several times. However, students beginning the familiar process of adding and dropping classes this year have found things to be a little different. After collaborations between students and faculty, certain adjustments have been made to the 2009-2010 academic calendar, particularly an earlier date of course enrollment, a single add-drop deadline, and a consolidated change of grading basis deadline. As winter quarter approaches, the Stanford community has mixed emotions about the efficacy of the new calendar and its efforts to promote undergraduate advising and to simplify schedule management.
In his presentation before the Faculty Senate, University Registrar Thomas Black stated that the new calendar will promote advising by opening course enrollment during the sixth week of every quarter. Allowing students to register for classes two weeks earlier than previous years would provide more time for future academic planning. Furthermore, the University hopes that earlier course selection will find students naturally inclined to take advantage of advising resources before the next quarter begins.
“Many more students have been seeking advising with the earlier enrollment date,” claims Kirsti Copeland, Academic Director for Florence Moore Hall. She also mentioned that although students may not solidify their courses until they visit classes during the first two weeks of the quarter, many still find it reassuring to plan their schedules in advance.
Ariel Mazel-Gee ’12 admits that it is comforting knowing she can plan her quarter in advance, but she also focused on how difficult this can be. “I, along with many others, tend to do things at the last minute,” Mazel-Gee said. “With a schedule full of midterms, I don’t have time to think about the next quarter until the current one is over.”
Even though some students may be reluctant to register for courses earlier in the quarter, the University remains intent on keeping an earlier enrollment date, for it coincides with new federal legislation. According to legislation proposed by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), beginning July of 2010, universities will be required to publish course textbook information by the beginning of course enrollment. Making the enrollment date earlier at the same time the federal government is compelling the university to publish textbook information may seem burdensome to faculty, but as Registrar Black pointed out, this will encourage faculty to release additional information like expanded course descriptions and reading lists, which could in turn facilitate earlier planning and advising for the quarter.
Along with the earlier enrollment date, the University has consolidated the number of additional deadlines from five to three. Previously, the calendar consisted of a study list deadline, separate add and drop deadlines, a change of grading basis deadline, and a course withdrawal deadline.
Now the main deadlines include a study list deadline at the end of the first day of class and a single deadline to add or drop a course by the end of the third week of the quarter. Additionally, the change of grading basis and course withdrawal deadlines have been consolidated into one deadline at the eighth week of the quarter.
Some students, like Chris Kucharczyk ’11, expressed discontent upon finding the drop deadline moved a week earlier from previous years. He cited that some courses do not have midterms until the third week, and that the new deadline does not grant the flexibility to drop a course after doing poorly on an exam.
“As a TA for CS 106A, I feel bad for the students who need to drop the class but can’t,” says Kucharczyk.
Even though Kucharczyk prefers the drop date from previous years, others view the shorter drop period as a trivial change.
“Most people have solidified their schedules by the third week of school,” says Elissa Karasik ‘12. “And even if you do poorly on a midterm, you can easily change the grading to credit/no credit.”
While worries about the drop deadline may persist, the calendar has in fact relieved student stress in different ways. In his presentation, Black also cited the confusing nature of previous calendars with five different deadlines. Copeland claims that after implementing this new calendar, “Freshmen, in particular, have had no problems with the consolidated deadlines… Confusion that has existed this year with the deadlines has only to do with upperclassmen retaining the memory of previous systems.”
The lesser confusion is also evident in this year’s fewer requests for registration correction. Robert A. Williams, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Advising and Research revealed, “Compared to this same point in time during autumn quarter last year, VPUE has received significantly fewer undergraduate petitions to request Late Adds, Late Drops and other registration corrections.”
Observing these examples, Williams feels that the deadline changes have had positive effects, not only requiring students to be more reflective about course selection earlier in the quarter, but also reducing the petitions and corrections that staff has to deal with.
Overall, the earlier enrollment date and consolidated deadlines have evoked mixed feelings among the student body. While faculty remains confident that these changes will improve Stanford’s academic life, only time will more fully reveal the new academic calendar’s effects.