With all of the chaos NYU Shanghai has gone through, the situation we have been left with is understandable. From professors leaving and the denial of visas for both students and professors to the seemingly never-ending quarantines and lockdowns – the college experience at NYU Shanghai has been chaotic, to say the least.

This chaos is even more accentuated during the first two weeks of classes, as students are tasked with finalizing their schedules. While college is not exclusively about the courses you take, they play a massive role in the individual experience you take away. NYU Shanghai’s policies should be designed to give students more flexibility to choose the college experience that they want. One way that the school can do this is by extending the add/drop period beyond the current two-week cutoff.

Extending the add/drop deadline offers many benefits. The most important is that it allows students to gather more information before they swap classes. Currently, for Monday-Wednesday courses, students can only attend three lectures before they must finalize their schedule for the next 15 weeks. Some students have to decide which classes to take without having the opportunity to get a sense of those classes’ demands. This can lead to students with a workload that they are not prepared to handle.

The strict adherence to this two-week deadline is also in contrast with the liberal arts school that NYU Shanghai strives to be. According to the NYU mission statement, our university “operates in accord with the value of curiosity”, however, strictly adhering to a policy that limits academic freedom is in opposition to this. Students ought to be allowed time to explore multiple classes without needing to worry about an administrative deadline. 

Another issue is that because the add/drop deadline is limited to only two weeks, academic advisors are especially busy – writing hundreds of emails both weeks. I have seen multiple cases of students who needed to schedule an appointment to add a course but were unable because their advisor was too busy. And when the deadline passes, enrollment in classes is strongly restricted and requires special circumstances, and dropping is heavily punished with a W on your transcript. Extending the deadline would alleviate this problem, at least partially, for both students and advisors.

However, it must be said that there are drawbacks to implementing a later add/drop deadline. For starters, joining a class after the second week would mean increased make-up work for students to handle. However, this increased makeup work is a choice that students should be allowed to make, and should not be interfered with by the school. There’s nothing that extra homework and zoom recordings can’t replace. Administrators cannot justify restricting students’ choices like this just ‘for their own good’.

Of course, this is not the only reason this policy exists – many administrators are concerned about professors too. Some argue that extending add/drop would disrupt professors’ schedules, and require them to put in more time to help students who join the class late.  Many other colleges, such as Harvard and Columbia, already have much later add/drop deadlines in place. At Harvard, students are encouraged to use the first weeks to judge their workload, and then drop classes if necessary by “Fifth Monday”. While having this deadline five weeks after the start of classes can cause complications, I believe that it causes far better problems than the system we have in place currently causes.