Sam Salkin: Bring sense to the semester’s end

GW may have the highest tuition in America, but have you ever thought of the true value our tuition brings us? This year’s freshmen will pay $37,820 a year in tuition for the next four years, no small sum; however those students will not have a fall break and many will stay until Dec. 22 for final exams.

No matter how you slice it, we certainly get our money’s worth in terms of classroom time here at GW and I’m all for that. But lets take a closer look at the jam-packed schedule and timing, especially around final exams. As much bang as we get for our buck at GW, our semester ends way too late, considering that finals are crammed into the very last days of school. Ultimately, administrators should make big changes when it comes to the GW final exam schedule.

This semester, classes end on Monday, Dec. 11, and after two reading days, finals start on Thursday, Dec. 14. Or, at least that is what the academic calendar says. Take the Political Science department, home to a popular GW major, for example. With the exception of three tests on Dec. 15, every single final in the Political Science department is on or after Dec. 18. What about another popular major beginning with “p,” psychology? Same exact situation – only three exams are being given before Monday, Dec. 18, and those are on Dec. 15.

When you combine English, history, biology and international affairs, there are only five finals for those four departments taking place before Dec. 18. What is the point of starting final exams on Dec. 14 when your average GW student won’t be taking a test until four days later?

Not all students are waiting a full week after classes end to take finals. Multiple exams in the business school are being offered on the first designated testing day, as well as the language departments. I completely understand that the finals schedule is made to shadow the class schedule created for the entire semester, but some sort of evenhandedness needs to exist in scheduling finals. Athletes and ROTC rightly receive priority registration, but why should certain majors and departments get priority finals?

Aside from more prudent scheduling, part of the solution to this problem is allowing professors to give final exams on or before the last day of class. Unfortunately, the University is staunchly opposed to this proposition – professors always tell students that they are highly discouraged from giving early finals, even though they and most of the class prefer it.

If a professor feels that he or she can give a test that serves as a significant academic experience on the last day of class, the University should not discourage that teacher from doing so. While administrators may be concerned about overloaded students facing tests before classes end, they should consider that we take equally difficult midterm exams in the middle of the semester, when academic rigor is at its peak. If professors want to offer a final exam on the last day of class in addition to the designated final exam date, giving students the option of which test to take, those teachers should be able to do so.

The final piece of the final exam puzzle is the ever mysterious reading days that we have become accustomed to at GW. Unfortunately, these days are often used by students to drink away the end of their semester. The University could open up classroom space specifically so that all professors can hold reviews during these reading days without having to fight for space. Furthermore, the University needs to ensure that enough study areas are available so that the Gelman Library isn’t clogged during reading days. Administrators should keep the Marvin Center open 24 hours a day and leave Duqu?s Hall available to ensure that students can get some real study time.

Clearly, the final exam is a staple of colleges everywhere, but tests don’t need to end within the final hours before Christmas. While GW can claim that we might be getting the most bang for our buck, there is something unnerving knowing that we need not be stuck at school so late in the semester unnecessarily.

When GW lets professors give early finals and rethinks the schedule for the end of the semester, I think students will be able to forgive them for once when it comes to money.

-The writer, a junior majoring in geography, is a Hatchet columnist.

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