Posted in Opinions

SFU’s course withdrawal system needs to be dropped

Withdrawing from a class shouldn’t make me feel guilty and intimidated

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Image Credits: Linda Shu

This year has been a rough one for me, personally and academically. Between a cancer scare and my mental health feeling like it has been rapidly deteriorating, school has unfortunately not been the number one priority.

This being my first year at SFU, I thought dropping a course would be a relatively simple process; since the school already has my money, what more could they want from me? It turns out that since I didn’t find out early enough that I would have to drop a course, the number of hoops I’ve had to jump through has made the process almost not worth it.

Summer courses began on May 9, and the last day to drop all classes without any record of it on your transcript was May 15. One week is fair enough for students to decide if a term is not for them. Should students decide they only want to drop a single class, they had an additional week — until May 22 — to drop a class without any consequences.

After that, the pressure is on for students to figure out if they’ll be able to complete their classes. This term, the last day to withdraw from a class through the Student Information System was June 12. That’s the end of the fourth week; after that, students have to go through the extenuating circumstances (WE) process.

To put that into context, if this semester had a reading week for students to catch up on their student duties, they’d have to decide beforehand if they needed to drop their class. This was the case during the spring semester this year, and it seems counterintuitive to force students to commit to these decisions before they have had a chance to re-organize their lives.

It’s simply unfair that students need to know so far in advance how their semesters will shake out.

What happens when a student has extenuating circumstances? This is where the process becomes unfair and borderline demeaning. Students are expected to prepare a package explaining why they are unable to complete the class, and discuss with the manager, student academic appeals to be judged if they validly cannot do so.

The package consists of a personal essay explaining why they are unable to complete the course, as well as supporting documentation to show that they can fully prove their reasoning.

According to SFU’s website, “It is not possible to lay down clear rules specifying precisely how WE applications will be adjudicated because the reasons for such requests are so varied,” which can be intimidating for students who want to know if it’ll be worth it.

The general criteria that SFU suggests for considering dropping a class consists of medical grounds, employment grounds, compassionate grounds, and ‘other’ grounds, each with a brief description of what those mean.

To sum it all up, it’s unreasonable for the school to pull such a power maneuver, because it shows once again how uncompassionate it can be with its students.

I’m not advocating for a penalty-free system. I don’t think the money paid should be returned, and the transcript should still reflect the withdrawal. It’s simply unfair that students need to know so far in advance how their semesters will shake out, and being judged as to whether or not your reason for dropping out is worthy enough is draconian. It puts unnecessary pressure and guilt on students who clearly need a break.

As a transfer student, I once had to drop a class in week nine for personal reasons back at Mount Royal University in Calgary. It was as simple as going to the registrar’s office, filling out a form, and never looking back.

Unfortunately, SFU’s course-drop policy is just another example of how out of touch the school is with its students.

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