University of California, San Diego


February 21, 2008


SUBJECT:    Change in Policy Governing Use of "W" Grade Option

The Committee on Educational Policy (CEP), which is made up of faculty, graduate and undergraduate student representatives, oversees undergraduate educational policy at UCSD. One such policy is the W option, which lets a student withdraw from a course between the beginning of 5th Week and the end of 9th Week, resulting in a "W" grade being recorded on the transcript. For years CEP has been hearing anecdotally that there are problems with the use of the W option at UCSD, and that UCSD's regulations for granting W's differ from those at other UC campuses. We recently asked the Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education to gather some data on W usage at UCSD, and we discussed these data at several subsequent CEP meetings.

We considered many possible options, and came to the unanimous conclusion that the W policy at UCSD should be changed to permit a student to take a W only once for each course. Currently there is no limit to the number of times the W option can be exercised for a given course, and we have examples of students repeatedly, quarter after quarter, taking a W in the same course, in some cases as many as nine times. We speculated that students wait to see how they performed on the midterm exam before deciding whether or not to drop the course after 4th Week. Sometimes dropping a course past the deadline is necessary, and this is why the W option exists; however, we do not think that repeated use of this option for the same course is fair or in the best interests of UCSD students generally, especially since some of the courses involved are wait-listed, meaning that other students are kept out of the course by the repeat W users.

Before moving forward with this new policy, we would like to receive comments from students.

Please send all comments by Friday, March 7, 2008 to wpolicychange@ucsd.edu.

Answers to some Frequently Asked Questions:

On average 5% of students in our courses take W's. For certain courses this fraction is substantially higher. This new policy will affect around 500 students per year (i.e., those who now take a 2nd, 3rd, etc., W in a given course). Once the new policy goes into effect, students will be allowed only one MORE W in each course; that is, if a student took a W in a course before the new policy goes into effect, they could still take a second W on that course.

Kim Griest
Committee on Educational Policy