By: Elazar Abrahams and Yosef Lemel  | 

Course Drop Date Without a “W” Bumped Up Nearly Three Months for Fall 2020 Semester

The Fall 2020 course drop date without a “W” has been set for Sept. 22, a date only four weeks into the semester and nearly three months earlier than in prior years.

Traditionally dated in early December, after midterms, this deadline is the last day undergraduate students can drop a class without any record on their transcript indicating their withdrawal. After that date passes, students need permission from a dean or academic adviser to drop a class, which will be marked with a “W” on their transcript. 

In Fall 2019, the deadline for dropping a course without a “W” was on Dec. 2, and in Fall 2018, it was on Dec. 11, 15 weeks into the semester. The dates for the Spring 2019 and Spring 2020 semesters were April 12 and April 23, respectively. In contrast, for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters, the deadlines fall out on Sept. 22 and Feb. 15, respectively. No major changes were made to the deadline for dropping a course with a “W.”

Although the changes are publicly available on the university’s undergraduate academic calendar, at press time students remain unnotified about the revisions via email or otherwise; registration for undergraduate students’ Fall 2020 courses began on May 4. 

A committee of deans’ advisors and registrars formulated the academic calendar. Chief Enrollment Management Officer Chad Austein, a member of the committee, explained to The Commentator, “When the academic calendar was created for the 2020-2021 academic year, we incorporated an update to the withdrawal policy and timeline to be consistent with other colleges and universities.” 

Some administrators echoed this sentiment. “When I got to YU, I was surprised to find that the Withdrawal deadline was much later than anywhere else I had been,” commented Dr. Noam Wasserman, dean of the Sy Syms School of Business. “There are many ways in which a late deadline disadvantages students in the long term. A modification of the timeline will benefit our students.”

In his response to The Commentator’s inquiries, Austein did not address the fact that students were not notified of these changes to the academic calendar.

Students expressed concern over the timing of this change. “It is so strange for YU to complicate things when students already have no idea what to expect this coming semester,” said Elisheva Goldman (SCW ‘21). “Dropping a class without a ‘W’ is invaluable and to have that moved to a much earlier date, especially during this uncertain time, is nerve-wracking.”

“YU's proposed plan brings us back on campus after this drop date,” said Efraim Goldstein (YC ‘23), referring to Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Selma Botman’s announcement two weeks prior. “What happens when my in-person class is one I want to drop but it will stain my transcript? This decision makes school unnecessarily more difficult in an already difficult time.” While YU has not named an official date for returning to campus, Botman’s announcement said it would be “after the Holidays” in mid-October. 

After being notified of the policy change by The Commentator, all seven student council presidents from the Wilf and Beren campuses jointly emailed Austein and various members of the administration on June 16 expressing concern regarding the earlier date. “This is a drastic change from previous semesters, when the deadline has been after midterms … We request on behalf of the student body that the date be moved to after midterms,” the email read.

The student council presidents’ email reasoned that “having the option to drop a class after midterms provides students with a buffer, as it lessens the stress in test-taking and ensures that students are able to find the perfect balance between learning material relevant to their future careers and receiving grades which will help them secure a job after college.” 

According to Yeshiva Student Union (YSU) President Zachary Greenberg (SSSB ‘21), after the student council presidents followed up a week later on June 23, Austein responded that the new date still gives students the first month to freely add or drop classes and students will be informed if there are any revisions to the new policy.  

“YU’s decision to change the timing of the ‘drop without a W’ date is an illogical and untimely one,” said Student Organization of Yeshiva (SOY) President Akiva Poppers (SSSB ‘22). “If YU is attempting to be in line with other colleges, they must also allow students to add courses several weeks after the semester begins. Picking and choosing the worst policies of other universities is irreconcilable with YU’s Strategic Priority to ‘Enhance Student Success and Wellbeing — Academic, Professional and Personal.’”

“The uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic turns this from an unjust decision into a detrimental one,” Poppers added.

On June 25, Greenberg started a petition to “halt” the “changes and return the calendar’s course-dropping deadlines to be consistent with prior years.” “If YU does, in fact, need to change their calendar drop dates, then that is a conversation that should be taken with the consideration of students’ voices and not behind closed doors,” the petition read. The petition currently has over 500 signatures.

Austein addressed the possibility for this policy to be reversed. “At this time, we are evaluating the needs of our students and the uncertain nature of the upcoming semester and will keep the community informed of any revisions to this policy,” he said. 

Dean of Undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dr. Karen Bacon, one of the recipients of the email from the student council presidents, told The Commentator, “I am supportive of Mr. Austein’s intention to review the policy in light of the current uncertainties and to consider revisions if appropriate.”

Sruli Fruchter contributed to this story.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include information regarding the petition started by YSU President Zachary Greenberg on June 25.

Photo Caption: Zysman Hall
Photo Credit: The Commentator