University Reverses Early Drop Date Policy Following Student Backlash
The Fall 2020 course drop date without a “W” has been moved from Sept. 22 to Nov. 17, announced Chief Enrollment Management Officer Chad Austein on an Aug. 12 Yeshiva University community conference call. The calendar change came on the heels of student backlash to the Sept. 22 date.
Under the new policy, from Nov. 17 until Dec. 7, students will be able to withdraw from classes and receive a “W” notation on their academic transcripts. After Dec. 7, students will be required to complete their respective classes and receive a letter grade. Austein assured that the spring semester will be adjusted to reflect a similar timeline to the fall’s drop dates. Regarding any future policy changes he said, “In the spring we will revisit the policy and we’ll make any changes going forward for the next academic year.” According to Austein, an updated calendar will be published shortly.
The Sept. 22 date was four weeks into the semester and over 10 weeks before the previous fall semester’s drop without a “W” date on Dec. 2. No official university communication was sent to students regarding the original policy change prior to The Commentator’s publication on the matter.
After student council presidents were originally notified by The Commentator of the then-prospective drop date changes, they jointly sent a letter of complaint to Austein and the academic deans on June 16, requesting a change to the policy and asking to meet. The presidents did not receive a response until a week later, after they followed up. In his response, Austein stated that the university was re-evaluating its policy; no meeting was offered to the presidents in his email.
Following this email exchange, Yeshiva Student Union (YSU) President Zachary Greenberg (SSSB ‘21) created a petition calling for YU to “return the calendar’s course-dropping deadlines to be consistent with prior years.” The petition received over 500 signatures.
After reaching out to the Office of Student Life (OSL) with their concerns, student council presidents secured a meeting with Austein; four presidents met with Austein, University Registrar Jennifer Spiegel and members of OSL. According to Student Organization of Yeshiva (SOY) President Akiva Poppers (SSSB ‘22), one of the meeting attendees, Austein and Spiegel explained the reasoning for the moving of the drop date to the presidents.
“Our academic policies are based on what is considered best practice in higher education while taking into account local conditions,” explained Dean of the Undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dr. Karen Bacon in a statement to The Commentator. “Some time ago we reviewed our withdrawal from course policy and realized it was not consistent with best practices and needed to be reevaluated.”
On similar lines, Dean of Sy Syms School of Business Dr. Noam Wasserman previously told The Commentator, “When I got to YU I was surprised to find that the deadline was much later than anywhere else I had been. There are many ways in which a late deadline disadvantages students in the long term.”
After concerns were voiced by students and faculty members, university administrators — including Austein, Spiegel, Provost Selma Botman and the academic deans — discussed the matter internally. “We came to the realization that this policy change was not appropriate at this time due to COVID, due to the atypical semester we are all about to embark in,” expressed Austein on the Aug. 12 call. Bacon stated that “local conditions, which have disrupted the normal flow of work, made it clear that this is not the time to make a change.” The drop date was subsequently changed to Nov. 17 to “mimic” last year’s policy.
“I am extremely happy and satisfied with the decision,” said Poppers. “This represents not only a short-term victory for the students of Yeshiva University, but a tremendous step towards building and cultivating a strong student leader relationship with the administration which I hope will result in additional positive change going forward.”
Following Austein’s announcement, Greenberg updated his online petition to declare “Victory!” “I'm happy that the drop date was moved to a more reasonable time for students,” expressed Greenberg, “but more importantly, I am thrilled with the open dialogue that we had with Chad and his team. I look forward to speaking out on behalf of the student body again in the future.”
Photo Caption: Belfer Hall
Photo Credit: The Commentator