By this time last fall, Jared Brown had already made reservations to fly home to Detroit the day after his last exam in December. This year, the sophomore has no idea when any of his tests will be and has not been able to book any plane tickets. And it’s starting to frustrate him.
“It’s definitely a problem,” Brown said. “The school needs to take the responsibility to let students know when their exams are going to be.”
A month into the semester, students are waiting for the University to release a final exam schedule before making any semester-end travel plans. With ticket prices rising as the holiday season approaches, those such as Brown, who rely on air travel to get home, are worried that the delay could end up costing them.
“GW prides itself on having students from all over the world and all over the United States,” Brown said. “They know we come from all different places and need to get tickets to go home, and prices go up the longer you wait.”
In past years, the University has included a tentative final exam schedule in the schedule of classes, giving students an early indication of how long they can expect to be on campus. Though times are subject to change upon professors’ requests, students and faculty have historically used the schedule as a guideline for planning the end of their semesters. All exams are scheduled to take place from Dec. 14-22.
This semester, the release of a tentative finals schedule was delayed. The class schedule used for registration last spring contained no information on exam times and a timetable has yet to be released. Administrators attributed the setback to the new time bands put in place this fall to account for classroom closures in Funger Hall.
Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for academic planning and special projects, said a combination of limited space, a modified course schedule and a greater number of classes have complicated the process.
“The new time bands required that an entirely new final exam schedule be developed,” Linebaugh wrote in an e-mail. “Moreover, with GW offering an ever-increasing number of courses, it is necessary to manage the schedule very carefully in order to distribute the courses more evenly across the full exam period and to ensure that appropriate rooms are available for exams.”
Linebaugh said a draft of the tentative exam schedule is currently under review by the academic departments, and that the schedule could appear on the Web as early as Oct. 8. He also noted that only the tentative finals schedule had been delayed and that the official timetable – typically set a month before the finals period – may be released earlier than usual.
Some professors and students faulted the University for poor planning. Michael Feldman, a professor of engineering and applied computer science, said the University has had plenty of time to adjust to the new changes.
“It’s true that the University has changed around the time bands, but they did that when they did the schedule of classes, which was last spring,” Feldman said. “They’ve had half a spring and an entire summer to work out a final exam schedule, and I have not been able to get a satisfactory explanation from them about what’s holding it up.”
Feldman said he first raised the issue with the Academic Affairs Vice President Donald Lehman’s office over the summer but received only vague reasons for the delay. While not a problem for him personally, the professor said he worries that the lack of an exam schedule may be problematic for his students.
“In the fall season, you’re talking about Christmas travel,” Feldman said. “The longer students … don’t know when their exams are, the closer they get to full planes and blackout days and more expensive tickets and so forth.”
Even students who are not as dependent on early travel plans said they find the lack of an exam schedule to be an inconvenience. Ray DeLorenzi, a sophomore from New Jersey, said that while not knowing his exam times probably will not affect his ability to book a train ride home, he feels as though the school should have been better prepared.
“I think the University had to foresee that there would be a new schedule,” DeLorenzi said. “When they decided to take that route, they should have made a final exam schedule at the same time to go along with it, which they didn’t. It’s frustrating.”
Linebaugh called the task of designing a final exam schedule under the new time bands “extremely labor intensive” and said the process should become easier in future semesters. He said students and faculty should prepare for the possibility that they might have to remain on campus through the Dec. 22 end of the semester.
“Both students and faculty need to recognize that the semester officially ends on December 22,” Linebaugh said. “Because of the increased number of courses being offered, and in turn, the increased number of exams to be scheduled, the probability of one having an exam on December 21 or 22 is relatively high.”