Every year, students across the country complain about exams, and University of Richmond is no exception. The complaints among Richmond students seem to be about scheduling more than anything else.
The common misconception among students is that professors must schedule their final exams during finals week and have no control of which day or time. The administration takes heat for forcing students into a specific three-hour slot that students cannot change even if they have multiple final exams on one day.
“The current exam schedule does hold the strong advantage that it eliminates any overlap in classes administering exams,” senior Kait Walsh said. “With that said, the current system does hold the disadvantage that it doesn’t take into account the amount of exams a student may be scheduled to have on any given day.”
But the schedule changes every year because of student feedback, University Registrar Susan D. Breeden said.
“The rules on flexibility are faculty rules,” Breeden said. “Faculty and students can’t move around exam times because they’re set in the Arts and Sciences final exam policies.”
Students may reschedule an exam if it is on the same day as another or because of a religious observance and the dean of Arts and Sciences accepts the students’ plea, Breeden said. Otherwise, students must take exams as scheduled. Breeden also dismissed the notion that the registrar controls exam policies.
“Faculty members can elect self-scheduled exams,” she said. “The only restriction is that faculty who schedule in-class exams during finals week have to use the designated classroom so everyone has enough space. Otherwise, it’s up to the faculty if they do take-home exams or anything other than an in-class final.”
Samuel Abrash, an associate professor of chemistry and new chairman of the environmental studies department, has offered students in some of his classes the option to take their exams at 9:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. on any day of finals week, he said. Mike Spear, chairman of the journalism department, has offered take-home final exams in his Copy Editing course.
Some professors will even use their last class period for final exams or let students work on their exams until the last final exam day, although officials writing Arts and Sciences exam policies have discouraged these practices. On the other hand, officials encourage faculty to allow students to switch exam times among those given for sections of the same course that are taught by the same professor. It all depends on the class and teaching style, Breeden said.
“If professors want to add a time slot for their students, then we fully support that,” she said, “as long as we have rooms for them.”
Walsh was not aware that professors and, by association, students had that much freedom, she said. She was aware of the rules concerning religious observances and multiple exams in one day, though, she said. She reached a different conclusion on self-scheduled exams from what she had expected.
“My first inclination was that it’s a great idea — why not?” Walsh asked. “But I think self-scheduling has a lot of room for error, potential honor code violations and more confusion and anxiety than it would be saving … If there was a way to merge the two ideas, perhaps giving students one or two options for each class to take their exam, that may eliminate any confusion associated with scheduling, while still giving students an option so not to overload their finals week.”
Have Abrash and others offering many times found the gold standard for final exams? Breeden said she could see how students would prefer that option.
“It would be difficult for faculty with take-home or free-schedule exams, but from the students’ perspective, I can see how free scheduling would be nice,” Breeden said.
Breeden did not say whether business, law, leadership or continuing studies classes would implement similar free-schedule exams, but, again, that it would be up to the faculty.
Contact reporter Zak Kerr at firstname.lastname@example.org