Assessing Add/Drop

Add/drop period can be a hectic time in the life of an Amherst student. Academic buildings seem like war zones, as troops of would-be learners march into classrooms, armed with pen, paper and Macbook, to stand on the front line, waiting with bated breath for the professor. Their battle? Gaining entry into courses promised to them during pre-registration. Not everyone can emerge victorious. Too often, too many fall as collateral damage to those fearsome words: “Sorry, everyone, but the class is over-enrolled…”

This semester has seen something of a ceasefire, however, as add-drop has functioned much more smoothly this past week, with serious and visible improvements made by the administration, faculty and even students. The combined effect of these efforts has resulted in fewer last-minute schedule-shuffles and fewer minor panic-attacks.

The College has taken positive steps towards curbing over-enrollment. For one, it is now standard policy for professors list their preference for admittance, in case of over-enrollment, in the course description itself. This, in addition to enrollment numbers visible to students under AC Data, make everyone more mentally prepared for the first week of class.
Classes this semester have been easier to get into, as well. Despite some lingering horror stories of last-minute drops, instances of over-enrollment have gone down from last year’s nightmare. Professors have also been more cooperative, in some cases even being flexible with class size out of sympathy for students’ difficult schedules.

Students also seem to have taken the advice offered in The Student’s last editorial and shopped classes wisely, keeping in mind several back-ups in case their original plan did not pan out. As a result, the first week of school has been relatively hassle-free for most students.

We at The Student believe, however, that any system (especially one as important to a student’s academic life as add/drop and the first week of class) must be constantly scrutinized and open to constructive criticism. One perennial concern remains the issue of Wednesday seminars. Because the first Wednesday of the school year is always dedicated to Monday classes, those Wednesday seminars only meet on the final day of add/drop. As a result, these classes are essentially un-shoppable, as a student has no room for error in his/her course selection: the add/drop deadline comes only hours after the first class meeting.

The add/drop schedule, as it currently exists, is disruptive to students and professors alike. Not only are Wednesday-seminarians unable to finalize their schedules until the 11th hour, but their professors are effectively robbed of an entire week’s worth of teaching time.

We understand that Monday classes, too, are at a disadvantage due to the academic year beginning on a Tuesday. However, with the current structure of add/drop, it would seem more logical for the first Wednesday to be dedicated to Wednesday classes, as Monday classes will meet the following Monday anyway — and those students will still have two more days before the end of add/drop to finalize their course selections. Another suggestion is that add/drop be extended a further two days, until the second Friday of term, in the spirit of fairness.

After all, we are all here to get the best education in the world: an Amherst education. All Amherst classes are great, but what is a good fit for one student may not be quite as right for another. Let us, therefore, give our students every last opportunity to excel — beginning with a more equitable add/drop period.