By Don Richards
KU Policy ACA-025, “Final Examinations,” is currently flagged on the university’s website as being under review. The Faculty Senate should consider changes to the policy that would bring practices here in line with other successful educational institutions.
The policy should be amended to adhere to this basic principle: final exam week should be reserved exclusively for students to study and take their final exams. No assignments—including essays, research papers, problem sets and laboratory reports—should have due dates past the last day of classes for a semester.
Similarly, no class meetings nor mandatory review sessions should be scheduled beyond the last day of classes. Furthermore, the administration should create a calendar where the last day of classes falls on Thursday of the last week of classes. This would allow for a three-day reading period between the end of classes and the beginning of final exam week.
The current policy repeatedly uses the phrase “final exam or alternative assessment” while being rather vague about the definition of alternative assessment. Perhaps it is similar to the situation where Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart commented on the threshold test for obscenity, i.e. “I know it when I see it.” Importantly, under the current policy, such alternative assessments are not constrained to occur during the two-hour time slot provided for each course’s final exam.
There should not be separate policies for academic subjects versus subjects that primarily involve performance or creative activity. Finally, the current policy takes no position on “ex-camera” exams, also known as take-home exams. Faculty should be encouraged to use these sparingly, perhaps only in courses devoted to research methods where the ability to use library resources is one of the skills being examined.
Other universities have policies like this, and they take violations of them by faculty members seriously. The changes suggested here would maximize chances for student success.