From the Daily: Keep final exams policy as is

Sunday, November 12, 2017 - 3:17pm

It’s that time of year again: Football season is coming to a close, the temperature is falling faster than the leaves and the sun is setting before most of us eat dinner. Final exam season is on the horizon. On Oct. 28, 2017, LSA Student Government passed a resolution that aims to decrease the stress imposed on students during the last few weeks of the semester. One key provision of the resolution implores the College of Literature, Science and the Arts to hold professors accountable for administering exams during the time slot assigned by the Registrar’s Office. The Michigan Daily calls on the school of LSA to maintain its current policy, which gives professors the ability to have all final assignments and exams due before the scheduled exam times even begin.

The resolution acknowledges the discrepancy between what the University prescribes for final exam scheduling and reality. The LSA Faculty Code exam protocol states “an instructor may not depart from the official schedule unless prior approval of the University Committee on Examinations is obtained.” However, many University students can attest to the fact that professors do, in fact, depart from their scheduled exam slot. They either hold exams during the last week of class, opting for a final paper or project, or hold a third, non-cumulative exam in place of a cumulative final during their given two-hour finals slot.

The perceived problem, according to the resolution, is that exams before the scheduled exam week interfere with regular semester work. However, in large part, professors tend to ease up on coursework in the weeks or week before finals. As a result, having exams at the end of the semester instead of during the given exam time doesn’t interfere as much as one might imagine.

Every year, students anxiously hold their breath and check the dates of their last exams.  Inevitably, there is always an exam which lingers at the end of the exam period. This year, the last day of exams is Dec. 21. This presents a challenge for students who hope to go home earlier for winter break.

Graduate students are not exempt from this dilemma; GSIs must finish grading their exams before going home for the holidays. For those GSIs whose exams are held on Dec. 21, the possibility exists that they would be unable to leave until Dec. 24, if at all.

There is also the added burden of finding flights during the holiday season; dorms close at 7:00 p.m. on the last day of exams and the cost of a flight home for such a short period of time is not necessarily a financial reality. Additionally, for some students — out-of-state and international students, for example — it may almost not be worth it to go home for such a short period of time. For these reasons, among others, many students and instructors welcome the option to have exams earlier (before the scheduled final exam slot).

Moreover, we challenge the efficacy of this resolution because it lacks a concrete mechanism for enforcement. There are countless loopholes that can prevent this resolution from effecting real change: Students can take classes outside of their academic program in LSA or professors can simply label their last exam “Exam three,” and continue to place it on the last day of class.

Students’ preferences for exam scheduling (spread out, all at once, early, late, etc.) are diverse, and finding a one-size-fits-all policy would be an improbable task. LSA offers thousands of courses each semester and it is unlikely that there is a policy that can be evenly enforced. Furthermore, a good number of professors are bound to ignore the exam guidelines (as they already do). Though the LSA exam protocol does give specific dates for classes’ final exams, it still allows professors to schedule their final exams earlier. Even though the resolution attempts to fix this, we argue that there will still be loopholes and it is not the best way to approach final exams.

The Michigan Daily Editorial Board calls on the college of LSA to retain its current policy that gives professors the flexibility to schedule their final assignments before their designated final exam slot. The resolution passed by LSA Student Government overestimates the negative impacts of exams during regular class time, does not take into account the effects of late exams on students and instructors and ultimately lacks a means for implementing change on a broad scale. For many of us, thoughts of returning home have begun to swirl in our minds. And as we inch closer to Dec. 21, we urge LSA to consider scheduling exams earlier in the month. That way, students and staff can enjoy a relaxing winter break and can return in January feeling refreshed and ready for the semester ahead. 

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