For the past two years, Thomas Aviles ’16 noticed a phenomenon: At the end of every semester, he left campus long after some of his friends who major in the humanities. As a Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry major, Aviles had exams through the end of finals period, while his friends who had only term papers were done before finals period even began because of a University policy that required final papers to be submitted by the end of reading period.
“Definitely all the paper people [were] leaving early,” Aviles said.
But at a faculty meeting last May, professors voted to change that policy, moving the latest due date for final papers from the end of reading period to the end of exam period. Former Yale College Dean Mary Miller said the decision, which will go into effect this semester, was influenced by the shortened reading period of the last two years, which caused students to have less time to write their final papers. While many students are enthusiastic about having more time to work on final projects and papers, others said that the changed timeline may make exam period more stressful.
Miller said that although final papers were officially required to be submitted by the end of reading period before the policy change, many professors did not follow these regulations and gave students more time to write.
“The truth is that some faculty were offering late dates, not knowing that it violated policy,” she said.
With the introduction of a fall break during the 2012-’13 school year, the University adjusted the academic calendar by cutting reading period from five days to three, leaving students with two fewer days to write their final papers. This year, reading period will be slightly longer, lasting four days both semesters.
Laura Wexler, a professor of American Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, celebrated the decision, noting that in her teaching, term papers are more important than examinations and, as such, she is happy to give students as much time as possible to work on them.
For the most part, students were pleased with the extended deadlines.
Emma Goldrick ’17 said the delayed paper due date will ease her stress.
“Reading period is for studying in Bass and gorging yourself in the buttery — not for writing papers,” she said.
But Skyler Inman ’17 called the new deadline a “mixed bag,” noting that while extended time to work on papers might alleviate stress, the combination of exams and papers during final exam period might be overwhelming.
Political science professor Eitan Hersh dismissed concerns about the concurrent timing of exams and paper deadlines.
“The real problem is students waiting until the last minute to write their papers,” he said. “The timing of deadlines is secondary. The procrastinators will find ways to procrastinate!”
Katayon Ghassemi ’16 noted that the new deadline accommodates the grading breakdown of high-level humanities classes.
She said that many humanities seminars have no final exam, so the bulk of a student’s grade is based on only one assignment.
“It’s nice that there is now the opportunity to spend more time on it,” she said.
At the faculty meeting, faculty members also voted to require that independent studies, with the exception of senior projects, be taken on a Pass/Fail basis. Independent study advisers are also required to submit a report on the content of the independent study and the student’s performance.
This semester’s reading period begins Friday, Dec. 5.