Making an exception to the rule

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As the second round of midterms comes to an end, students’ grades are shifting both upward and downward. Some students suffer from senioritis while others are experiencing personal issues, and the tumultuous weather changes are affecting everyone’s mood. Fortunately, the University’s newly implemented “one-time exception” rule provides students a way out of the chaos that difficult courses can sometimes create.

The one-time exception (OTE) rule provides undergraduate students a one-time only “get out of jail free” card, according to The Daily Texan. If a student wants to drop a course after the Q-drop deadline has passed, this new policy permits students to drop the course until the last day of class. With the standard Q-drop policy, students must elect to drop a course by a specific deadline, after the 12th class day, and the dropped course will show up as a “Q” on students’ academic records. Students may Q-drop up to six courses. A course dropped using OTE appears the same way as a Q-dropped course on students’ academic records and thus does not penalize students. The OTE differs from Q-drop because a student may use the OTE to drop a course after the Q-drop deadline. Moreover, as it is a backup option, the OTE can only be used once.

The OTE is beneficial to all undergraduate students for many obvious reasons. One important reason is the safeguard it provides for students’ GPAs. While academic exploration is a vital part of the college experience and UT should certainly emphasize the importance of learning, the prudent student must also takes his or her GPA into consideration for jobs, professional schools or graduate schools. The OTE helps students ensure their GPAs will not be scarred by a particularly challenging weed-out courses taken freshman year or a rigorous upper-division course for which they were not yet prepared. Moreover, nodding to academic curiosity, the OTE provides students the opportunity to be daring and take a class they find truly intellectually stimulating, with the knowledge that the OTE will protect them if necessary.

Furthermore, the OTE takes into consideration the mental health of students. Many undergraduates take on full course loads in addition to part-time jobs, internships and leadership positions on campus. All of these factors account for the high level of stress experienced by many students, which may contribute to underperformance and poor grades in class. According to The New York Times’ survey “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010” in which 200,000 incoming undergraduate students were surveyed, 48 percent of students rated themselves as “below average” in mental health, a 12-percent increase from when the survey was conducted in 1985.

Other recent studies found that in general, college students experience a higher level of stress because of an assortment of factors. One of these factors includes the demand to perform well in rigorous, high-intensity courses, and as such, this stress can affect students’ performance. Students may benefit from the OTE’s opportunity to rectify major academic blunders, thereby helping to eliminate some of the stress college students regularly experience. As mental health increasingly becomes a major issue at UT, the OTE demonstrates the University’s acknowledgment of this matter and willingness to implement policies to assist students.

The OTE’s restrictions – that it may only be used once and that students must speak with an academic adviser before employing it – necessitate that this action not be used lightly. Furthermore, students must have a D+ or lower to use an OTE, ensuring that students will not use this new policy to wander aimlessly through the course catalog. Above all, the OTE demonstrates the commitment of the University to serving the students. It provides a link between students and the institution, as the University recognizes the rigors and challenges of the undergraduate experience and elects to help students with this safety net. A student will likely never use the OTE during his or her academic career, but having the option of this emergency mechanism will benefit a student’s academic experience.

Waliany is a Plan II and government senior.