As finals week approaches, students are flooding the library in preparation for tests, papers and projects. Some students, however, will enter finals week having already taken their last exam for a course, a practice that violates Binghamton University’s policy regarding final exams.
Although he isn’t currently aware of any specific faculty members violating the policy, University Provost Donald Neiman is aware that it happens from time to time.
“Ending the semester early by giving the final exam or last exam during the last week of classes deprives students of valuable instruction,” Neiman wrote in an email. “Students need the time to prepare for final [and] end of semester exams and complete final papers. When they have exams in some classes during the last week of classes, it makes it more difficult to do so.”
Final examination schedules are determined by the office of Course Building and Academic Space Management. According to the University’s academic calendar, final examinations for the fall 2017 semester run from Dec. 11 through Dec. 15, but it’s not uncommon for faculty members to schedule final examinations during the last week of classes.
In fall 2014, the University’s Faculty Senate, a lawmaking committee that consists of professor representatives from all departments at BU, passed a policy stating faculty must administer their final course exams during the official examination period. The policy, which applies to final exams and take-home finals, was established when the University switched over from a final exam request system to a system that automatically schedules a final exam for each class.
However, students in Contemporary International Law (PLSC 380F) will take their final this Thursday, Dec. 7 from 4:25 to 5:50 p.m. The course syllabus doesn’t mention an in-class final exam. Similarly, Metaphysics of Pop Culture (ENG 380V) requires a test in the days leading up to finals week, but not during the designated finals week.
Exemptions to the rule are awarded if the class doesn’t have a final exam, if the exam takes place in a lab or if the school’s dean gives permission to administer the exam at an alternate time.
According to Colleen Marshall, the assistant to the chair of the history department, the department tries to enforce the policy, but faculty members often find various ways around it, including not calling their last examinations “final exams” or offering written assignments. Marshall said she believes that since courses can differ greatly both in structure and content, professors should be allowed more leniency regarding their final examination schedule.
“Every class is different in the way it is taught, and the information the students are learning,” Marshall wrote in an email. “The professors should be able to decide what is good for that class.”
Kayla Murray, a senior majoring in psychology, said she has experienced added stress due to professors administering finals before the final examination period.
“It’s annoying because you’re trying to finish up work for all your other classes and somehow find time to study for your final,” Murray said. “I don’t think it’s fair to have students take a final before they’ve actually had a chance to get through all the material.”
According to Raul Cepin, the Student Association’s vice president for academic affairs (VPAA), the earlier dates of final examinations are sometimes mutually agreed upon by students and faculty, benefiting both parties.
“I do not think that our faculty violates this rule in bad faith,” Cepin wrote in an email. “In many instances professors ask the class for feedback regarding class preference for when the finals should be.”
However, Cepin wrote that as a whole he thinks the policy helps students manage their stress and budget their time during the final weeks of the semester.
“I believe that the policy was written with the intention of protecting students from an unreasonable amount of academic responsibilities in a short period of time,” Cepin wrote. “Academic policies like this, function as a way to maintain academic rigor, while accounting for student wellness.”
Cepin advised that any student looking to discuss their issues with pre-examination period final examinations should fill out an academic concern form, available through the VPAA office, or contact his office directly.