Update on course drop deadline

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Last night, I sent this message to students* explaining that, in an effort to alleviate the unusually high academic stress they are experiencing at this time, the colleges have collectively agreed to extend the course drop deadline without a W through the last day of instruction, May 14. The online drop form will become available to students starting on Monday, April 19.

In order to ease the burden on faculty, the colleges will be arranging the approval process so that faculty can be notified of a student’s drop request, but will not need to take action. We recommend that students discuss the implications of their decision to drop a course with advisors in their college student services office. However, if students contact you to discuss their options, please keep in mind that dropping below 12 academic credits can negatively impact their academic standing, financial aid, immigration status, and/or athletic compliance. Students should also be mindful about dropping a required course in a sequence, especially if the course is only offered once a year. Finally, students who have been charged with an academic integrity violation will not be permitted to drop the course unless they have been cleared of the charges.

I’m also writing to express my heartfelt gratitude for your positive response to the message Kathryn Boor and I sent to you on Monday. While our focus in that email was primarily on the mental health of our students, I know very well how hard a year this has been for you too. We are all in desperate need of a break. I realize that faculty have had to dedicate much more time to teaching, often at the expense of their research and own self-care. Students have noticed the increased flexibility many of you have extended and are thankful for the temporary relief.

As we enter the final stretch of the academic year, I’d like to share some excellent examples of how faculty are currently alleviating strain for students:

  • Make remaining quizzes/exams optional
  • Only count remaining quizzes/exams if they help a student’s final grade 
  • Give no penalty for late assignments under the condition that students will only receive the grade on late assignments, not instructor feedback 
  • Allow students to choose how they will earn remaining points for the semester (e.g., select among a project [individual or group], paper, or exam)
  • Drop lowest performing assignments, even (or especially) assignments with high value
  • Substitute a creative alternative assignment for a hard assignment (e.g., find evidence of the phenomenon we are studying in the real world and post it on Canvas)
  • Trade a grade by replacing any past graded assignment with something more fun and less stressful
  • Change an assignment to a group/paired assignment (or the opposite)
  • Offer alternative exam types (e.g., an essay or oral quiz/presentation instead of multiple-choice questions)
  • Offer an open book exam 
  • Change the final writing assignment to be more of a personal reflection (e.g., what advice would you give to the class next year; what does learning about X mean to you)
  • Restructure the last few class periods in order to focus on a review of the material instead of new content
  • For students who did not earn enough participation points, offer an opportunity to make up lost points that will help them re-engage in the material (e.g., re-watch recorded lectures and answer a few questions)

It’s worth noting that some of these measures also help reduce the grading workload for instructors. Therefore, I encourage you to review your remaining assignments to see how you may be able to release additional pressure for both you and your students.

Your partnership in making Cornell a caring community is very much appreciated.


Lisa Nishii
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

*the message was sent to all students except: Law, Johnson, DVM, Cornell Tech, Continuing Education, and Master’s and PhD students of the Graduate School (graduate school students received a separate communication from Dean Boor)
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