YCC proposes changes to finals period

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Following the completion of a report evaluating Yale’s new academic calendar that debuted this year, the Yale College Council plans to work toward two final exam policy changes to alleviate the stress of the shortened reading period.

The Academic Calendar Report includes data from a Jan. 10 survey asking undergraduates questions about fall break and the three-day reading period — two new additions to the calendar that began in the 2012–’13 academic year — and recommends changes to the calendar and academic policies during finals. YCC President John Gonzalez ’14 said that after presenting their findings in the Academic Calendar Report to the Yale College Calendaring Committee on Wednesday, the YCC concluded that the Council will focus on implementing the academic policy changes — moving back the deadline for final papers and allowing flexibility in 7 p.m. exam time — during the spring semester because the significant calendar changes the YCC proposed are not feasible goals in the short term.

“If any changes happen to the academic calendar, they will not happen during the next school year,” Gonzalez said. “In the interim, the YCC is examining what it can change in terms of academic policies. These academic policy proposals will try to alleviate the problems calendar changes have caused for students’ academic well-being.”

The survey, to which 1,340 students responded, found that 75 percent of students think the shortened reading period had a negative influence on their academic performance, but that 62 percent of students supported keeping a fall break next year, even at the expense of the longer reading period. From the data, the YCC outlined four calendar recommendations — to schedule fall break one week earlier, to maintain the length of Thanksgiving break and to lengthen the reading and exam periods — and the two academic policy recommendations.

John Meeske, dean of undergraduate organizations and physical resources and member of the Calendaring Committee, said the 2013–’14 provisional academic calendar is “relatively stable” and that “no radical change to the calendar for next year” is possible.

Meeske added that the report’s recommendation to shorten winter break is “complicated and tricky” to implement. Extending reading and exam periods into winter break can conflict with the timing of Christmas in some years, and the Calendaring Committee has historically tried to ensure the length of winter break remains consistent, he said.

YCC Vice President Danny Avraham ’15 said he plans to focus on implementing the report’s two academic policy recommendations before final exam period this spring. Avraham said he has already been in contact with administrators about both proposals, adding that he thinks they will help reduce students’ stress during finals period without changing the calendar itself.

Avraham and Gonzalez said Spring Fling, which will take place the Monday during reading period, will exacerbate the negative effects of the shortened reading and exam periods.

Students interviewed said they are in favor of allowing students to petition moving a 7 p.m. exam, but that they do not think moving paper due dates to the end of finals period will alleviate stress associated with the shorter reading and exam periods.

“This policy would enable procrastination. I don’t think it helps that much with planning,” Rachel Miller ’15 said. “The current deadline delineates between essay-writing time and exam-studying time, which I find very useful.”

The Calendaring Committee will receive access to all written responses on the YCC’s survey, as well as a version of the report more detailed than the one sent out to students.

Reading period this semester will begin on Friday, April 26.

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