Sumeet Khanna & Violetta Nikolskaya
Co-Presidents McMaster Debating Society
Q: Should course drop dates be moved later in the term or are the current deadlines sufficient?
S: Add/drop dates. Although I've personally never added or dropped a course after the "financial penalty" deadline, I've spoken to peers who tell me that one could have dropped a second term course without academic penalty up until March 9 of this year. What comes to my mind, at least, is how close this date is to exams. In fact, it's so close to exams, that it might as well be pushed right-before exams (roughly April 3).
As a caveat, I don't want to be talking about courses that have no written examination during the formal exam period. I'm talking about the Chem 1A03s of the McMaster world. And the first point I'll offer Violetta to begin this debate, is that I think hope is something that lasts longer than the Mac admin want to admit. A student can pass March 9, be failing a course, and still cross his/her fingers for the exam to "save them". And then, right before the exam, while embroiled in exam-prep, I think some students finally realize that their efforts will be to no avail. They've neglected the course material, and that neglect cannot be resolved in the span of a few days cramming for an exam. So if this is the case, let them drop the course without penalty. The alternative is to have the student write the exam and fail the course; not only is this demoralizing for many, but it also looms over academic transcripts FOREVER (or at least for a while).
V: Hold on, Sumeet. March 9 is how close to the exam period? Oh yeah – a month. A solid month of midterms, assignments and content that has been prepared by the professor. This period in the academic semester offers two very important opportunities; the first is an improvement in one's standing in that course. The second is the possibility of developing an interest in the course. I think we do not give enough credit to the merit behind University and academic commitment. When we make a decision to take a class, there are many possible motives: "bird course" to improve CA or SA, required course, interesting elective, passionate course of exploration, the list goes on. However, in regards to the decision to take the class purely to get an easy mark is the one on the list that should be critically analyzed. When did we decide that in University it should be glorified to take the waters in an 'easy course' and then drop it once we realize we can't cheat the system into easy grades. This is University. Buckle up and commit to what you took.
S: Okay, let's buckle up. Vio, recognize that a lot of courses throw a lot of their heavy assignment material in the last month. So let's run a thought experiment. We have student X. Student X wants to continue in this course, even though he knows he's not doing so well. It's March 9th. He drops the course, because he knows that the heavy assignments are after March 9th, and he doesn't want to take the risk. On my side of this debate, student X doesn't feel the pressure to drop. He can take the course, develop "interest" in the course, as you put it Vio, and then drop the course if he’s finding it difficult. We maximize learning with my resolution Go in there, learn, and have the option to drop if you don't want to doom your transcript with a fail.
V: Sounds like your student X is auditing the course. As this student is not supposed to be just there, that develops two problems; the very first is that student C is filling a seat that someone else who either needs the course or would want to be in the course should be filling, and secondly, this student will be delaying what you imply is an inevitable process. There are a lot of students who find themselves in the awful position of not finding a seat in a required course and then having to either take an expensive summer course or to wait an additional year. For some this could mean delaying their graduation by a semester, or even an entire year. All so that one person can get an expensive ride through a course that will yield no credits? How is this at all beneficial for student X or those affected? Furthermore, this student clearly needs to talk to an academic counsellor and make plans for their own graduation and degree audit fulfillment rather than staying in a class that is draining precious time. Maximize learning? Your side only creates more problems and does not even begin to address the ones that I outlined.
S: Wait, this makes no sense. If student X is enrolled in the course, he is not auditing the course. That seems pretty clear to me. So if students can't find a seat, it isn't student X's fault; the admin has overbooked the course, or students are informally switching core class times to suit their needs. Listen, I get one last shot to prove my point for the paper, until September. Here I go. March 9th adds stress to students, and hurts their ability to succeed. Moving it to right before exams allows students to try, then fail, and learn from their failure, rather than worry about a big omen on their transcript. To sum things up in debate terms: I'm right, and you're wrong.
V: This all amounts to a mere strawman argument. I did not say student X auditing the course; I said that his behaviour is like that of auditing a course but it does not have the benefits that auditing the course has. Again, now you go on to absolve their guilt in causing the course to be full for others students. We have a responsibility to ensure that students who should be in the course access that opportunity, and this is made more challenging with suggestions like yours. Give more credit to University students. We are not children. We are adults and we should be treating our commitments like adults. Things are tough, but we cannot always afford to leave everything to the last minute. To sum things up in debate terms: Yield to the master debater.