Trying four day finals

Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Mark Biermann has suggested the implementation of a two year pilot period for a shorter four day finals schedule. This recommendation was given to the Office of the Registrar after careful deliberation from Faculty Senate and Student Senate. 

Student Senate’s vote was in favor of the schedule change with a vote of 23-0-1. Faculty Senate voted 10-12-2 against the change. 

 “When all was said and done, I had to weigh the faculty vote which is split slightly against, and the student vote from student senate which is overwhelmingly in favor; commuters were in favor and graduate students were in favor and all that came together,” Biermann said. “We thought the best approach was actually just to do a pilot. The idea is we would do a two year pilot and starting in the fall of 2020. This year we would have the four day final schedule and be collecting a lot of data from students.”

The prospect of moving from a five day finals schedule to four days was first proposed in 2018. The deliberations have been ongoing around the Valpo community largely because of the amount of unknown factors involved.

“I really appreciated how carefully everyone weighed the different kinds of issues related to this topic and they did a really nice job thinking it through, I thought and they talked about it conscientiously,” Biermann said. 

For the Faculty Senate, several points of concern have been raised. One issue brought up was increased student stress, a factor that Dr. Kevin Goebbert, associate professor of meteorology and chair of Faculty Senate, believes is one of many unknowns involved. Other worries included possible scheduling conflicts from multiple finals in the same day, as well as losing a day that could be used for studying or relaxation during exams. 

“There’s no written rule against more than two finals in a day but it’s been common practice that if you have more than two, students have the ability to at least ask for a change to one of them. I think they were concerned from their perspective, is this going to increase the number. I don’t think any of the faculty currently felt there were too many of that happening but obviously if you’re going to compress the period, the threat of that goes up,” Goebbert said.

With the trial period set to begin fall semester of the 2020-2021 school year, Goebbert is looking forward to the opportunity to experiment and collect data with the Faculty Senate regarding student input and results of the shortened schedule test period.

“I think that‘s going to always be an evolving thing because students are always evolving at the university,” Goebbert said. 

An instrumental source of support and ideas for the altered schedule have been student opinions represented through the Student Senate. Student Body President Annika Brown found that, while some students feared exams would be too close together, the majority were in favor of a four day finals schedule.

“We had all of the senators reach out to their different constituencies and the commuter senators actually sent out a survey to the commuter students so we got some more concrete data back from them,” Brown said.

Based on these conversations and the survey, Student Senate found that the student response about having shorter finals periods was positive.

Ultimately, the proposed finals schedule is not without concerns from both the Faculty and Students Senates, but offers attractive benefits for both groups, the magnitude and value of which will be determined during the test period.

“I think it’ll just take careful planning, the first one will be telling of whether it’s a good system or not. It’s one of those things you can’t know until you try it,” Brown said.  

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