Professors Frustrated with Add/Drop Deadline

With thousands of undergraduates taking advantage of the “fifth Monday” deadline to add or drop a course, some professors frustrated with a rush of students joining and leaving their classes say the deadline falls too late in the semester.

Since study card day on Jan. 31, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Registrar’s Office has processed 1,745 undergraduate add forms and 2,091 undergraduate drop forms, statistics that are comparable to last Spring’s numbers, according to FAS Registrar Michael P. Burke.

According to Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations professor Shaye J.D. Cohen, who teaches Culture and Belief 23: “From the Hebrew Bible to Judaism, From the Old Testament to Christianity”, his course has added 22 students since the study card deadline on Jan. 31, bringing the total class enrollment to 419 students.

“People three days ago were asking me if they could add the course,” he said, “And we already have a paper due.”

Cohen said he had to start declining to sign add forms, noting that his pre-term-planning enrollment was 94 students, more than 300 shy of the current enrollment number.

“A certain point comes and the sections are full, and then I have to say no,” Cohen said. “I’m not sure the system is working terribly well.”

According to Burke, the majority of drop forms were turned in on Feb. 10, the deadline to add or drop a course without a fee. The second highest number of add/drop forms were filed on Feb. 24, the deadline to drop a course without such action appearing on a student’s transcript.

While many students choose to add classes later in the semester, the majority of forms processed are drop forms, Burke said.

According to Crimson Yard Resident Dean Catherine Shapiro, freshmen in particular may find themselves dropping courses by the fifth Monday of the semester. This spring, the Freshman Dean’s Office processed somewhere between 400 and 500 add/drop forms.

“Many freshmen choose to experiment with taking five classes [in the Spring semester],” Shapiro said. “There was even a very small handful that took six [courses].”

Shapiro noted that the FDO and the Advising Programs Office encourage students to take four classes—what they call a “full load”—especially if a student is feeling overwhelmed by fifth Monday.

Some students, especially freshmen who are used to maxing out their high school’s course load, are wary of dropping courses, Shapiro said.

“It’s uncomfortable to realize you can’t do it all,” she said.

Andrea G. Mirviss ‘16, who has dropped two courses in past semesters,  said she has utilized the period before the add/drop deadline to assess what classes she should take.

“Sometime when I’m deciding between two classes, I’ll put both on my study card knowing that I will drop one,” she said.

She added that although classes progress normally during the first five weeks, she sometimes feels that students do not take this period as seriously as they do for the rest of the semester.

“I’m happy with the five weeks,” Mirviss said. “But it does create a sense that the first five weeks of the semester aren't quite as important as the professors and the teaching staff would like them to be.”

—Staff writer Meg P. Bernhard can be reached at mbernhard@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on twitter @Meg_Bernhard.

Tags