Marks: Change Credit/D policy

Yale College policy dictates that students who submit course schedules late will not be permitted to take classes Credit/D/Fail for the current semester. I learned this policy the hard way.

The late schedule policy is one of the most stringent policies I have encountered at Yale, with virtually no avenue of recourse once the clock strikes 5:01 p.m. on the day the schedule is due. The only way to get around this mistake is to successfully petition the Committee on Honors and Academic Standing. I missed the deadline, and now I’m suffering the consequences.

I have accepted that my semester will be Credit/D-less, but in hopes of promoting fairness for those who follow me, I urge the Yale faculty and administration to consider the validity of this rule in general. I believe the rules of any one entity (such as this University) should be held to a standard of equity: The policies Yale espouses should be logically consistent with one another. Given what I know about other Yale policies, I am not certain that this late-schedule rule is consistent with some of Yale’s related policies.

In particular, I believe that all rules directly affecting academic grades are related and should therefore be consistent. Two major administrative factors affect each student’s grades: course enrollment (and whether those courses are taken Credit/D/Fail), and the student’s completion of exams before the expiration of the academic term. These two factors are therefore intrinsically related.

I’ve always been impressed that Yale’s institutional policies are not impersonal or without reason. I have seen several of my friends miss final exams and be permitted to reschedule them rather than fail their courses. From what I have been told, the rationale for this policy is that Yale does not wish to see its students fail a course due to one mistake or problem. So, in general, it seems Yale policy tries to prevent administrative policies from affecting a student’s grade.

In the name of consistency, the same logic should be applied to the late schedule policy. After all, the situations are identical in essence: In both, a very important piece of paper (either an exam or a schedule) was not turned in when it should have been. In fact, the late schedule error seems the less egregious of the two.

I do not wish to diminish the seriousness of handing in a schedule late. But I do believe that handing in a late schedule is no more serious than the other deadline issue affecting a student’s grade, which has far more flexible penalties and more means of resolution.

I also do not mean to argue that deadlines don’t matter. In fact, I support the enforcement of other deadlines throughout the term, such as the midterm course drop deadline, since being allowed to miss those deadlines could give some students unfair advantages. But submitting a schedule late does not give the student an unfair advantage.

At the very least, a residential college dean should have the same ability to grant an excuse in the late-schedule situation as when dealing with a missed final exam. Currently, the dean has little leeway to grant an exemption. For term-time academic matters, professors have the power to be merciful with deadlines. But a student’s dean is the only avenue of recourse for a late schedule, making the dean’s role in this situation especially important.

So what solutions would resolve this discrepancy and establish consistency in administrative policies affecting academics?

Perhaps a student could be fined and notified as soon as the schedule is late but given one or two days to turn in the schedule before being disqualified from the Credit/D option. Or perhaps the residential college deans could be given the same authority on this issue as they have on final exams.

The second option would be especially consistent with Yale’s other academic and administrative policies, since it would mean that a faculty member could have some say in granting extensions. I am certain that, if one were to examine this issue further, many more and better solutions would become apparent.

My situation for the semester is set in stone, but I hope students in the future won’t have to endure the same fate due to a two-hour mistake. Whether or not we find Yale’s policies to be correct, they should at least be consistent.

Harrison Marks is a junior in Timothy Dwight College.