Core classes most popular drop options for students

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“Make  sure to remember the deadline for dropping classes  and the requirements.”

That is the line pelted to students continuously the first two weeks of the semester by academic advisers.  The dropping of at least one class has almost become a requirement for a degree conferral.

Of course, in no way do advisers promote the dropping of any class, but they are just making the process much easier and efficient.  The result, though, has reduced in dropping a class or two to an afterthought.

According to SLU coordinator for scheduling and registration Matthew Gerst, the classes that are most often dropped, according to data ranging from the Fall 2010 semester to the Spring 2012 semester, are: Theology 100, English 190, Philosophy 105, Philosophy 205, Chemistry 165 and Math 120. Gerst said that these six classes are consistently the classes most often dropped by under-graduate students at SLU.

Jeffrey Jansen, an academic adviser in the College of Arts and Sciences, attributes dropped classes to students underestimating things such as the course workload and difficulty and their own interest in the subject.

“The main reasons that I have formulated as to why students drop classes have to do with a class schedule that had too much of a workload, classes that students might have been interested in but realized otherwise after a week or two, or the level of difficulty of particular classes that was not expected by the student,” Jansen said.

Nearly all classes on the list of classes that are most often dropped are core classes required of all SLU students.  According to Jansen, the consistent availability of course classes each semester increases the likelihood of students dropping the course.

“Just this semester I dropped a course because I overloaded my schedule by mistake,” senior Joseph Yancey said. “I can always retake the course I dropped because it’s always available.”

One of the largest dropped course rates is within the department of Philosophy, with the Intro to Philosophy and Ethics courses having the highest drop rates.

According to the Chairperson of Philosophy Fr. Theodore Vitali, an unfamiliarity with studying philosophy may cause students to drop courses in the subject.

“How many philosophy classes have incoming freshmen taken in their high school careers?” Vitali said. “Most students have absolutely no background in philosophy, it is so foreign to them in language and historical context that it has the potential to overwhelm.”

According to Vitali, it might be the first time students have ever been exposed to great thinkers such as Plato or Aristotle. However, the drop rates for Philosophy 205, Ethics, was very surprising to Vitali because it goes against his general knowledge of students’ rationale for upper-level philosophy courses.

“It is understood that students will have a hard time adjusting to Philosophy 105 but when you get into the higher levels of Philosophy, usually, students understand the importance of the subject to their liberal arts education and to their lives,” Vitali said. “When you think about the great thinkers and movements in history, they all take their root in philosophy, the sciences, constitutions, the evolution of rights for man – they all are rooted in some sort of philosohy.”

There seems to be some disconnect between Vitali’s reasoning and some students’ interpretation.  According to senior Chris Graflage, it had nothing to do with how much he thought of that specific course’s value to himself. Instead, it was the teacher’s uninspiring work ethic that motivated his dropping of the class.

“I dropped Philosophy 205 because the teacher seemed to be terribly unorganized and was out of town to start the semester,” Graflage said. “When the teacher was in town, he seemed to give out random readings of his favorite philosophers that didn’t seem to correlate.”

An issue that many students might never think would be a cause for dropping is safety.

According to chairperson of the Chemistry department Dr. Steven Buckner, safety has become a big issue for students taking any sort of course with a lab requirement.

“If you follow the national news, one of the biggest issues that colleges are dealing with is safety, especially in laboratories and because of that we have emphasized that as a primary goal,” Dr. Buckner said. “Many students are not ready for the attention to detail that we pay to safety concerns as well as the preparation that goes into a class that must be done outside of the classroom.”

According to Buckner, the safety concerns are so grave that a student in Arizona died due to contamination in a lab and the California school system is dealing with similar issues.

Buckner outlined ways to prepare students for a lab course at SLU and safety and preparation topped the list.

“If students, as a whole, realized those two facts before heading into the class, you might see the drop rate go down substantially,” Buckner said.

The reasons that students may have for dropping classes are varying and numerous, but there are tools and resources for students to learn about a course prior to entry. Handouts are available to students detailing course listings. Also, Banner Self Service offers brief course descriptions. Jansen hopes that these resources are taken advantage of.

“Take advantage of student mentors as well as handouts and worksheets that are supplied to students by every adviser,” Jansen said.  “I hope the information that we send out is useful and take seriously by students.  We want this to be a partnership. When we start dictating to students then that is when students end up dropping courses.”