Northwestern will enforce uniform course withdrawal policy

Peter Kotecki, Assistant Campus Editor

With the Oct. 30 drop deadline for Fall Quarter courses nearing, Northwestern’s undergraduate schools announced a uniform course withdrawal policy this week, including a provision that allows McCormick students to drop individual classes for the first time.

University Registrar Jacqualyn Casazza said the University is now ensuring all undergraduates who drop a course after the drop deadline will receive a withdrawal grade on their transcripts. In addition, there is now a defined period during which students can request to withdraw from a course, she said.

Previously, Casazza said, there was no uniform course withdrawal policy among the six undergraduate schools.

Joseph Holtgreive, assistant dean for student career development at McCormick, told The Daily that McCormick students prior to the policy clarification announcement could not withdraw from an individual class.

“After the drop deadline, if a student wanted to withdraw from a class, they had to withdraw from all of their classes,” Holtgreive said. “This change allows students that flexibility to request to withdraw from individual courses.”

Holtgreive said the change in interpretation is beneficial to students because it allows them to have more flexibility with courses.

“What I think is really important — and this is why students still have to request to withdraw — is that we don’t want students to simply panic,” he said. “We want to have a conversation and let them understand that they do have options.”

Casazza said research examining other universities’ course withdrawal policies revealed NU was far outside the norm of its peer institutions.

“The norm is that there is a withdrawal period, and every student who withdraws in that period gets a W,” Casazza said. “We are aligned now with what our peers are doing.”

The interpretation change aims to give every student the same experience with dropping a course, Casazza said.

“(Whether you would) get a W or not get a W kind of depended on who you talked to that day and what school you were in,” she said. “It should be a consistent experience for students.”

Previously, undergraduates were allowed to submit withdrawal requests until the end of the term, but the definition of the term’s end was not clear, Casazza said.

“Classes end at different times,” she said. “Some classes in the fall end before Thanksgiving … some classes end a week before exam week, and so we wanted to make sure that we weren’t allowing students to request a withdrawal after the course ended.”

In an email to Communication students, Sally Ewing, associate dean for advising and student affairs at the School of Communication, said students may request to withdraw from a class until the due date of the final exam, paper or project in that particular class.

Dorina Rasmussen, Medill’s director of the student life, said the due dates of Medill students’ final assignments will be confirmed with the students’ instructors. Mary Finn, associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs, as well as Ewing and Susan Olson, assistant dean for students affairs at the School of Education and Social Policy, announced the same process in emails to their respective schools.

In an email to SESP students, Olson said the new interpretation of the course withdrawal policy was already in place at SESP but is new to some of the other undergraduate schools. From now on, all schools will adhere to the policy in the same way, she said.

Weinberg senior Riko Ohashi, Associated Student Government’s vice president for academics, said some undergraduates were previously not aware of their ability to withdraw from courses past the drop deadline. The policy clarification has a positive impact on students from a health perspective, she added.

“It’s good for everyone that we are all on the same page, everything is clear, and that both students and faculty members, advisers and alike, know that you can drop a class after the deadline if you have good reasons for it,” Ohashi said.

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