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An editorial in the Washington State University…

student newspaper.

As finals become a frightening reality for students, professors need to be reminded that finals week is for finals.  [Yes, it’s gotten this bad.  Students admonishing professors to do their job.] It has become customary for professors to schedule finals or place deadlines on lengthy term papers during dead week or the week before, often times violating Rule 79 of the WSU Academic Regulations. The rule states, “No examinations or quizzes (other than laboratory examinations, make-up examinations and make-up quizzes) may be given during the last week of instruction.” Professors are using the lax dead week schedules to turn finals into a two-week marathon of test-taking. Of the five members of The Daily Evergreen Editorial Board, we have 12 finals or papers due during “dead week” and only six finals or papers due finals week between us. We highly doubt that we are the only students facing an incongruous lineup of exams and deadlines.

Administrators have to take violations of Rule 79 more seriously. [Admonishing administrators too.  The students are correct to do so.] With the cost of tuition increasing nearly every year, students deserve every dollar of that education. The 16-week semester schedule does not provide enough time to cover course material in enough detail, especially when professors take an early holiday vacation by turning dead week into finals week. [It’s really not a good idea for professors to make students cynical.] By removing a week of instruction from the semester, professors also cut down on the amount of time they can tell stories about their children and pimp their latest book.  [Piling it on a bit here, but why not?  Students see the rip-off and are pissed.]

A weak economy, poor performance and a disregard for regulations are all adequate grounds for removing a professor. Given the cutbacks in numerous departments and custodial services, students would assume that professors are working harder than ever to make their courses as intellectually stimulating as possible. However, evidence points to the contrary.

Though this is no laughing matter, maybe underperforming professors should be replaced with custodians. We are not convinced that would negatively impact our education – that is how high we hold WSU’s current line-up of “educators.”  [Drop the quotation marks.  The word educator is vile enough without them.] Who knows, WSU might have a janitor who is a savant like the one played by Matt Damon in “Good Will Hunting.” Dead week is designed to provide students adequate time to prepare for finals. Digesting 15 weeks of lectures is a daunting task for students who actually care about their education. Of course, some students will use dead week to party, but the irresponsible behavior of a few students does not justify the actions of professors who schedule early finals.

Students should be aware of their rights and report abuses of Rule 79 to the Office of the University Ombudsman in Wilson Hall Room 2.

Tenured academics are insulated from reality, and allowing them to keep their jobs while remaining ineffective is a disservice to everyone who is paying to be here.  [It’s certainly true that tenured professors are insulated from all sorts of realities, including the need to take angry editorials like this one seriously.  Pity.]

Margaret Soltan, December 7, 2009 6:42PM
Posted in: professors

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8 Responses to “An editorial in the Washington State University…”

  1. Chris Lawrence Says:

    I’d be rather more impressed with their argument had they not conflated examinations, which clearly fall under the scope of Rule 79, and "lengthy" term papers, which clearly aren’t, at least as the rule is quoted.

    Further investigation may also reveal the presence of asinine requirements at WSU that have caused professors to "front-load" examinations and papers alike; one place I taught required faculty to have final grades submitted within 48 hours of the scheduled exam time, which would make it borderline insane for a professor to allow students to both take their exam and turn in their paper at the scheduled examination time in most any class of non-negligible enrollment.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    I agree – I too wondered about their including final papers in their complaint.

  3. Ahistoricality Says:

    I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a "dead week" without an exception for quizzes and tests that are scheduled at the beginning of the semester, via the syllabus.

  4. Polish Peter Says:

    I’m assuming that what they call "dead week" is a reading period, as we would call it at an Old Eastern University. At the Old Eastern University where I work, we have the institution of "Dean’s Date", the last day of reading period, on which all non-exam written work for courses is due. It’s called "Dean’s Date" because short extensions into final exam period require a dean’s permission. Exams start the next day and are scheduled by the Registrar. The good thing about Dean’s Date is that it makes students sequence their completion of course requirements, rather than trying to juggle paper writing and exam taking, and also provides faculty members with adequate time (theoretically) to read papers properly before submitting grades. Students at OEU seem peaceful about this custom.

  5. dance Says:

    Polish Peter@4: I suspect you are mistaken there….reading period is usually a gap between instruction and exams, not part of class meeting time.

    At my school we also have a "dead week", it’s the last week of the semester, and students apparently think it means they should not be taught new material, although that is NOT part of the policy. However it does include both finals and papers–anything that is more than 20% of the grade cannot be due in dead week—UNLESS, it was on the syllabus from the get-go. It is a stupid implementation designed to make no one happy.

    There is no reading period here–classes end Friday, exams Monday-Friday. Grades due the next Tuesday at noon.

    Here are WSU’s rules (much more nicely formatted than any policies at my school):
    No exemptions, no inclusions of papers.

    Actually, for the purpose of using all available time for instruction and keeping profs from taking off early, major papers that are a final project in classes with no exam *ought* to be included in the rule—I’m not inclined to ding the students for reacting to the spirit rather than the letter.

  6. theprofessor Says:

    1) Five students have a grand total of eighteen finals or term papers at the end of the semester. If this is what passes for savage repression at WSU, well, kids, enjoy it while you can.

    2) It IS incredibly annoying when slacker faculty give final exams early. Not only are the students distracted in their other classes, but if enough faculty do it, it leads to situations in which students may have to hang around 7-10 days until their last regularly-scheduled exam. This inevitably leads to whining about why The (Mean) Professor won’t give me my exam early. We have an entire professional school that ignored the finals schedule for years: a couple of the faculty even gave "finals" the frikkin’ week BEFORE Thanksgiving.

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