Although it feels like we only just got through Fall finals season, some students are already growing anxious over Spring finals. This early anxiety is due at least in part to the the fact that this Spring semester’s finals schedule is set up very differently than most students at Stern are used too, with three finals scheduled for on one day on three of the six days of finals.
In previous semesters the most finals a student could take on any given day was two, but with the new Spring schedule it is possible for students to be scheduled for three finals in a single day. Students who take classes in the J, M, and F spots for example, will be scheduled to take all three final exams for those classes on the first day of finals, May 10th.
Many students who have noticed this new schedule have already begun to express their concern. One anonymous student told The Observer “I think it’s ridiculous and unproductive. It will negatively affect grades and will ensure that students don’t actually retain the information they’re studying.”
Two main factors account for the new finals set up–Shavuot, which this year is a three day Yom Tov, and Commencement. Dean Orlian, Associate Dean of Stern College, told The Observer that “Although we typically allow 7 days for final exams, the Spring ’18 calendar presented unique and difficult challenges. In order to conclude final exams before the three consecutive days of Shabbat and [then] Shavuot, and to thus enable students to go home for the holiday without the need to return to school for exams or Commencement, there was no choice but to allot only six days for final exams [which] required scheduling three exams on each of two days.”
The exam schedule was then further complicated by the date of Commencement this year. Dr. Jill Katz, Exam Director, explained that “Commencement was originally scheduled for Thursday [May 17th], but the Events Department changed it at the (relatively) last minute to Wednesday [May 16th],” causing a whole day of finals to be lost. Dr. Katz noted that “we have control over that decision [to move the Commencement date],” but once it was made the exam schedule needed to be further adjusted. They decided to add a third day with three exams to the finals schedule to make up for the lost day.
Aliza Berenholz Peled, Senior Director of Events, explained that “the University’s commencement dates are coordinated by the calendar committee a year or two out,” but these dates are “always tentative and not finalized until final arrangements can be made with the venue.” While the May 17th was the tentative date, “the calendar committee took several factors into account when deciding on a final date–including accommodations for families who were traveling (providing them ample time to return home for Shavuot), finals scheduling and venue availability.” Once these factors were considered, it was determined that “May 16th was preferable [and this] date was confirmed in the Fall of 2017.”
Dr. Katz explained that the choice to set up the finals schedule with three exams each on three days was carefully made after considering all other possible options. While they considered taking a day or two away from Winter Break so that finals could be longer and consequently more spread out, ultimately “intercession is already so short [that] we did not feel we could start the semester [any] earlier than we [are].” Extending finals was also obviously considered, but Dr. Katz emphasized that ensuring students–especially international students–could go home for Shavuot, which many would be unable to do if they had to return afterwards for additional exams, was a top priority in making the schedule.
The administration believes that students will prefer this three-exam-a-day schedule to shortening Winter Break or having exams after Shavuot. One student echoed this sentiment, telling The Observer that “I think the situation is a little crazy but I understand that this [is] helpful for out-of-town students because now they can finish finals, graduate, and move back home in time for Shavuot.”
However, not all students The Observer spoke to seemed satisfied with the decision. One anonymous student said that “I would rather have finals go for longer and have graduation after Shavuot than [have] three finals per day. I would even rather have Winter Break be a little shorter so that finals could be more spread out.”
Although the decision over the exam schedule was clearly a thoughtful one, many students are still left stressing over having to study for and take three exams in a single day. Speaking to this concern, Dean Orlian noted that the “third [exam] slots, which were carefully chosen for each of those [three exam] days, are [for classes] which are minimally enrolled,” so that as few students as possible would be affected. Dr. Katz also pointed out that, “as we do every semester, we suggest that students check their final exam schedule now, and if it looks unmanageable to consider choosing other courses.”
Despite both of these considerations meant to minimize the stress of taking three exams in one day, Dean Orlian also told The Observer that no student will be forced to take three exams in one day. “[The administration] acknowledge[s] that this is not an optimal situation,” she said, “but [we] reassure students that no student will be required to take more than two exams on a given day.”
Dean Orlain explained that “Dr. Katz is working on a plan to accommodate students who have three exams scheduled on one day,” that will enable students to request that “one [of their three] exams be rescheduled.” However Dean Orlian noted that students “who may prefer to take three exams on one day as opposed to having one exam rescheduled,” will certainly be allowed to do so.
Besides the issue of three exams in one day, the Spring Finals Schedule has posed an additional concern for some seniors. Hebrew Language finals are scheduled for Wednesday May 16th, the same day as Commencement. A number of students expressed concern about this overlap and potentially having to miss Commencement for their Hebrew final. When The Observer pointed out the issue to Dean Orlian, so responded that “we do believe this will impact very few, if any, graduating seniors as most students complete their Hebrew distribution requirement before their last semester on campus.” However she did note that if there are any students who do find themselves in this situation, “Dr. Katz will be working on this issue as well.”