Don’t penalize students for unpredictable modes of instruction

With inconsistencies in instruction, students should receive more academic and financial accommodations-- especially during the class enrollment period.

Students, represented by little figures, trying to hold back a clock hand within a zoom window.
Bridget Long/Staff

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Rapidly approaching the two-week mark of online instruction, many students are looking forward to the return to campus. While in-person classes are an exciting change, students also face the looming early drop deadline on Jan. 28.

These are the last days of online instruction and the last days before students can rearrange their schedules without a $10 late fee for each class dropped after Jan. 28 — or a $5 late fee for each class added after Feb. 4. If students are not officially registered by Feb. 4, they will be charged a $150 late-registration fee.

Without experiencing the primarily in-person mode of learning that campus is expected to employ next week, many students still question the classes they’d like to take this spring. In light of these uncertain, evolving modes of instruction, late registration fees must be waived.

These late fees are reasonable in a pandemic-free context. According to the UC Berkeley Office of the Registrar, these deadlines and fees ensure waitlisted students will be able to enroll in time to succeed in their classes, and class rosters will stabilize earlier. Additionally, classes with group projects will no longer be undermined by students dropping in the fifth week, and students will finalize their class schedules sooner.

However, as campus rules and accommodations have evolved with these unprecedented times, it’s time to face the facts: Enrollment can be done better, too, starting with the elimination of late fees.

There are several levels of uncertainty that are not only affecting students’ class schedules, but their personal lives — such as delays in testing and the distribution of test results. This hinders students’ ability to properly enroll in classes, and they should not be penalized for something outside of their direct control.

Additionally, attending in-person class schedules is drastically different from logging into Zoom classes. It will be difficult to determine which classes will fit into students’ schedules once returning in person, particularly when accounting for commute time and students’ other obligations.

Waitlisted students would similarly benefit from experiencing their schedules in person before determining their schedules. To bolster support for waitlisted students as they have a heavier workload for fewer credits, professors should record lectures and offer asynchronous options for students. If not offered throughout the semester, these academic accommodations should at least be available within the enrollment period.

A weeklong delay in the early add/drop deadline following the return to in-person instruction would give students more clarity on which classes they want to enroll in. Students should not be financially penalized during this time of uncertainty. Now more than ever, UC Berkeley must acknowledge the inconsistencies of instruction and their effect on students, as well as take necessary steps to provide accommodations.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the spring 2022 opinion editor, Jessie Wu.