The Yale College Council passed a resolution Sunday evening calling on the administration to design a policy to ensure final assignments are returned to students.
The resolution, which passed, 17-1, following debate among YCC members, proposes guidelines regulating the efficient and prompt return of coursework completed at the end of each semester. The resolution asks the administration to require professors to return all fall finals by the end of the second semester shopping period and to give students the opportunity to receive spring finals over the summer by mail, as long as they submit a self-addressed stamped envelope along with their final assignments. The proposal also requires professors to set aside time to meet with students who wish to discuss graded finals.
“I think the return of final assignments is uneven,” YCC President Steven Syverud ’06 said. “It has the potential to get a lot better.”
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said he agrees with the spirit of the resolution, but he said the Dean’s Office will likely respond to the YCC resolution by strengthening recommendations in the “Instructors’ Handbook” that professors distribute final exams and papers, rather than creating new rules.
Salovey said he is also concerned about the lack of student interest in the quick retrieval of assignments. As a teacher, he said, he made graded final exams available, but he estimated that three-fourths of his students never picked them up.
“I think one of the reasons faculty may not be especially motivated to provide students with their tests is because when they have, students have not been especially motivated to pick them up,” Salovey said.
English professor Langdon Hammer said that he thinks it is reasonable for students to expect to see their work commented on in a timely manner, but expressed a similar concern that students do not usually show an eager interest in retrieving assignments.
“Many students never seek them,” Hammer said. “I have many old papers that students still have not picked up.”
YCC Representative Rebecca Taber ’08, who introduced the resolution, said she thinks many students’ lack of interest in receiving their graded final assignments would make it easy for professors to follow the recommended guidelines.
“I don’t think it would put a strain on the other responsibilities of professors because not many students will actually take them up on these opportunities,” she said.
Keith Wrightson, the director of undergraduate studies for the History Department, said students should realize that returning papers depends on each professor’s schedule and the size of the class.
“It is up to a professor’s own discretion to try to get them in on time, and most try to return papers reasonably quickly,” he said.
Students had mixed reactions to the YCC resolution.
Justin Goff ’06 said he feels the YCC has correctly observed that the majority of professors do not return assignments on time, though he has not personally experienced major problems.
“It’s easier to remember professors who were slow to return assignments because they stand out more in your memory, but I haven’t found this more than a minor annoyance,” Goff said.
Russell Brandom ’07 said he does not think more responsibility should be put on professors for assignment retrieval.
“I have never experienced inconvenience,” he said. “If there is a problem with getting assignments back it is usually because the student doesn’t care enough to pick it up.”
YCC representatives will meet with Salovey on Friday to further discuss implementation of the resolution.