COI Proposal Is Too Lenient
The Committee on Instruction's proposal to allow students to drop courses without a professor's permission up until the last two weeks of a term is unjustified and will not benefit the College.
Gary Johnson, the committee's chair, said the proposal "will ease the logistical burden to the Registrar's office." Johnson said Registrar Thomas Bickel receives about 100 petitions every term and the new policy will reduce that number.
With more than 3,500 students on campus every term, 100 petitions are not enough to merit a drastic change in the course-drop policy.
Johnson's argument that the new proposal "will allow students to initiate course changes themselves and toss decisions back into the student's lap" is more valid.
But this does not require the College to take drastic steps. The current system allows students to drop courses before the 10th day of classes without permission. Students can petition at any time during a term to drop a course.
If the College wants to give students more flexibility, it can move the time period for dropping a course without permission from 10 days into the term to the third week of the term. This would allow a student to get a good feel for a course, but would prevent students from droping a course because of bad mid-term grades.
The COI proposal makes it too easy for students who are doing poorly in a class late in the term to drop it, without having approval from a professor or the Registrar.
The right to drop courses is intended to relieve students, who, for personal or medical reasons, feel they cannot handle the work for a class.
Under the proposed policy, the right would be extended to students who felt they were not receiving the grades that they wanted. A poor grade is not a good enough excuse to drop a class two weeks before finals. Allowing students to do this would hurt both students and the College's academic reputation.
The COI's policies are also inconsistent. Last year, the committee changed students' transcripts to reduce grade inflation. But the committee's recent proposal could do just the opposite.
Johnson said he does not think the proposal will cause inflated GPAs. But it seems logical that the new policy will lead to higher grades because students will be very tempted to drop a course in which they are doing poorly.
Although students who drop courses late in the term will have it noted on their transcripts, it will not be enough to deter them.
This policy would detract from the purpose of a liberal arts education, where students should value learning more than grades. And, if the policy leads to grade inflation, a Dartmouth education will be worth less to all the College's students.
Dartmouth maintains it is interested in providing the best possible education for its students. The College cannot command respect and claim to offer a first-rate education if it allows students to drop a course simply because they are doing poorly.