Withdrawals should not go to waste

My brother is smarter than I am when it comes to playing the University game. He always finishes his homework early and does all of the required reading. He attends all of his classes, takes concise, neat notes and is a regular at sanctioned office hours. My brother never takes a test unprepared, and he always leaves with the desired grade, usually because he set the curve. With each passing semester, he collects the necessary scholarships, takes all the right classes and ultimately receives admission to the necessary school before moving on.

Then there is me. I do most of my homework at the last minute – and my reading after that (especially in astronomy). It’s hard to read a book when the plastic wrap doesn’t come off until after the midterm. I come to most tests swinging by the seat of my pants because I was studying during the commercial breaks while watching a hockey game. Instead of setting the curve or at least leaving with the desired grade in the course, I merely leave with something academically salvageable. Such moderate final grades are the product of intense hard work during the second half of the semester because I spent the first half slacking off and I tanked the midterm.

My brother and I approach school in very different ways: He, in the intelligent, efficient, practical way and I, in a way which can only be described as unnecessarily idiotic. Yet the University allows both of us the same one-time, GPA-saving life vest.

Known affectionately as the “W,” all University students are allowed one withdrawal from any class of their choosing at any time before the final. For some students, it goes as an unused aspect of the University experience. For others, it is a utilized godsend.

I happen to fall into this latter category. To a person such as myself who flirts with academic probation every now and then, the idea my brother’s “W” will go unused seems a terrible shame. Naturally, I don’t wish he be thrust into a situation where it must be used, but the “W” shouldn’t go to waste. Not when – possibly via a small service fee – so many other students could get some use out of it.

The creation of a fully tradable “W” would greatly improve student morale by providing an extra lifeline for the academically struggling. So I implore the University to fully embrace the capitalist society we live in. If it is possible to buy a credit, then why not make it possible to buy a “W”?

Of course, the University itself should not sell such a sought-after commodity because there wouldn’t be any control over the quantity of “W”‘s released. Such a situation could trigger academic inflation. Instead, each student should have control over his or her own “W” to use or market as they so please – and for the agricultural students, perhaps even a futures program.

Naturally, such freedom must come with a standard set of rules for the protection of the student. Each student attempting to participate in a
withdrawal transaction should have signed consent from their adviser; after all, it seems like we have to have an adviser’s signature to do everything else, so why not this? Adviser supervision would keep students from peddling their “W”‘s away for frivolous reasons such as the pledging of a fraternity, being able to sell back expensive IT textbooks or as “rent” to sleep on their friend’s dormitory floor. The “W” would be completely the student’s own, so long as he or she used it wisely.

Such individual jurisdiction could help solve the current University riddle – the more credits you take, the cheaper each one is. But with a 13 percent tuition increase, who can afford to have a job to pay the bills while taking 18 or more credits at the same time? Those students totally dedicated to their schooling, especially those in professional schools, usually have little time to work as is. So selling their withdrawal which they wouldn’t use anyway could provide some much-needed financial stability.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those of us who could always use an extra “W” – such as students who need a higher grade in a course than the one they were going to get. Perhaps some these students work a full-time job as well as going to school or maybe there are those who make a failed attempt at being a business major (see photo). After all, scoring one-third of the class average on an accounting midterm was good enough to swallow up my withdrawal. I could always use another one.

The buying and selling of a student’s one-time withdrawal just makes good business sense. In an economy thriving on supply and demand, why should the University be any different? Those students who know how to play the University game will always have an unused withdrawal lying around – just as those who spend the first six weeks dumbly nodding their way through a language course will always need an extra one.

The world is full of haves and have-nots – just like the University. In this case, there are those who have not used their withdrawal and those who would like to have two or three. I know my brother will never have to use his. Perhaps if I’m really nice to him, maybe, just maybe, I can get a family discount.


Chris Schafer’s column appears alternate weeks. He welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]