Final exam policy re-examined by College policies committee

The Committee on Academic Policies (CAP) released a new final exam policy for the College. The new policy requires that finals be given during finals week and that they count for at least 15 percent but no more than 50 percent of the grade for a course. As part of the new policy, CAP held a sparsely attended open forum for faculty and students on April 20.

The new policy is designed to make final evaluations a part of many classes and ensure they take place at the end of a semester when students can focus on just finals.

Amanda Norvell, CAP chairperson, said the policy was meant to keep classes from having finals before Final Exam Week.

“It doesn’t matter if the class votes to do (the exam) early,” Norvell said. Instead, students who might feel uncomfortable voting against a “do it early” proposal can point to the policy as support for holding the exam during the regular exam period.

Christine Leichliter, assistant dean of Art, Media and Music, said professors were feeling pressure to schedule exams before exam week.

“So many faculty come to expect that they’re the bad guy if they say no,” Leichliter said.

According to the draft policy, regular class work, papers and assignments must be handed in before the last day of classes; they should not be due during the exam week. Furthermore, final papers and projects must be due during the exam week.

According to a footnote, the paper due date policy allows professors time to read and comment on the papers. Without it, papers that came in late may not be given the same attention as professors rush to get grades in.

Though the policy sets standards and values for exams, it stops short of setting specific requirements for professors and classes.

For example, the draft policy says “an evaluation may take the form of an in-class final exam, a take-home final exam, a final paper or a final project.”

It goes on to say, “Other formats may be acceptable as well. In each case, the evaluation should be comprehensive or integrative in nature (but not necessarily cumulative).”

Beth Paul, acting provost, said this was a deliberate choice on the part of CAP.

“We have to walk a very fine line to protect academic freedom,” Paul said.

Steven Link, Student Government Association (SGA) vice president for Academic Affairs and CAP member, said some proposals were considered by CAP but rejected as being too meddlesome.

For example, Link said CAP considered a requirement that professors assigning final papers be required to use the exam period to discuss or present the papers rather than having them just dropped off.

The proposal died in committee as intruding too much on a professor’s discretion to use or not use the final exam period, or whether or not to discuss papers.

Norvell emphasized that the policy may not be right for all classes.

“It’s very clear that there are entire types of classes that this won’t apply to (such as art classes),” Norvell said. Professors can apply to their chair and dean for an exemption to the policy, if they think the policy doesn’t suit their class.