Column: The fuss over final exams

On Dec. 22, Georgetown University will not administer any final exams. Howard University shall have completed their last final nine days earlier on Dec. 13. Students at the University of Maryland, the Catholic University of America and George Mason University shall, at the latest, have finished their fall semester final exams on Dec. 18. GW students, on the other hand, get to deal with exams as late as Dec. 22. They’re paying more than anyone at any of those schools – why don’t they have something to show for it?

Some members of the administration will state that American University also has finals lasting until the 22nd. What they won’t note is that American students knew the day of registration when their finals would be for the courses they were selecting. Students attending American this spring can tell you right now when their finals are going to be for each and every one of their classes. And AU isn’t the only school that takes the initiative to give its students a chance to make travel plans while they’re still registering. Howard students have the same advantage, as do University of Maryland and George Mason students. All those universities announce their final exam schedules before the semester even starts. Why doesn’t GW?

It’s common knowledge that the closer a travel date is to a major holiday the higher the costs are. The same correlation is seen when one doesn’t buy tickets in advance. As a result, GW punishes its students twice through its muddled final exam process.

GW students don’t get their final exam schedules until halfway through the semester; as a result they can’t buy their tickets as far in advance. To top that, finals are held later than at any other D.C. university so that the tickets that students are buying late are being sold at an increased fare. University officials’ greed costs students enough due to outrageous tuition. Now, to add insult to injury, their incompetence in planning for finals is hurting students even more.

Students have launched an initiative to protest these massive oversights. During the last few weeks, a petition has been passed around J Street and Kogan Plaza as well as lecture halls, where many professors have encouraged students to sign. When it was submitted, 1,007 students signed the petition – almost 11 percent of the student body.

Signatories basically agreed that the University should announce final exam schedules at the start of the semester, should not hold exams within the last 10 days of December, and should allow professors to hold exams the last day of classes if they desire. As it stands, professors who do so break University policy unless all students in their class agree to an earlier date.

On Tuesday, the petition and attached signatures were handed in to the offices of Associate Vice President for Academic Planning Craig Linebaugh, Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald R. Lehman, and President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. It’s time that they take into account the needs of their students and create some changes that will at least start to justify the $43,000 that they expect students to pay them.

One solution would be to copy the system that most D.C. universities use and hold final exams according to weekly meeting times. For example, American University students know that this spring, all classes that are held on Mondays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. will have their final on May 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. This system eliminates the need for students to look up every single class by department and course number as is done at GW. Notably, American University students have that knowledge right now for classes that end in May. They can go ahead and make travel plans right now if they so wish. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask from University officials to have the same advantages that are being given to our counterparts at other (cheaper) area schools.

Advance notice of final exam dates and for those exams to end at a reasonable time of the year isn’t an extreme request; almost every other university does it. Now that students have voiced their agreement with this sentiment, it’s the University’s obligation to do something about it.

In an interview with “By George!” in a 2001 article called “Putting Students First,” Linebaugh said, “We’re really focused on students.” Well, Mr. Linebaugh, the students have spoken and the proof was delivered to your office on Tuesday. Hopefully you will keep your word.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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