Finals week schedule changes without student input

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Loyola students are expressing discontent for not being consulted before administrators decided to condense the finals week schedule for next semester.

Rather than spreading across nine days, finals week will be condensed to six days starting in the spring. The schedule this semester will follow the same format as it has in the past — one week plus the following Monday and Tuesday (Dec. 7-12). However, no finals will take place on the second Monday and Tuesday in the spring. Instead, exams will be from Monday morning to Saturday night (April 27-May 2).

Unified Student Government Association (USGA) President Flavio Bravo issued an official statement on Oct. 24 on behalf of the executive board, explaining its disappointment in the unexpected schedule change.

The statement said Bravo, along with Michael Fasullo, USGA’s vice president, previously proposed an idea that would make the finals week schedule more flexible, and claimed that “the university’s decision to now condense finals week is in direct opposition to the goal behind our proposal.”

Their idea was to allow students to schedule their own finals to meet their preferences, based upon the theory that if students had more time to study for their harder exams, they would do better. The proposal was that professors would provide students with three to five different exam slots to choose from.

According to Fasullo, he and Bravo had approached John Pelissero — Loyola’s provost and chief academic officer — when they were running for office last March, and mentioned their desire to look at a new finals schedule that would reduce stress for students.

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Fasullo also said he believes the exam period is not a healthy time that promotes academic success. He identified it as a GPA killer that decreases students’ ability to be healthy, touching on the use of prescription drugs such as Adderall, the increased consumption of coffee to stay awake and sleep deprivation.

“Is it an accurate analysis of your intelligence, or is it just a bunch of tests crammed into a week that’s really stressful?” asked USGA’s chair of academic affairs Grant Bosnich.

Bravo and Fasullo aimed to increase flexibility during finals week so that students would be able to study more and get better grades, and without doing so at the expense of their own health.

Bravo and Fasullo put the proposed new finals week schedule on their platform in March and ran with it.

Fasullo said they were encouraged by some administrative officials to pursue the idea, but that some concerns of cheating and professor time availability were brought up during the proposal process.

The two had solutions to both claims, and Loyola’s former Vice President of Student Development Dr. Robert Kelly even suggested pairing their plan with a universal academic honor code to prevent students from cheating if their exams were at differing times.

To combat the other claim, in the case that professors cannot attend all time slots for the final, their solution was to have someone else in the same department administer it.

Fasullo said their proposal was on their website and that multiple students had come up to them and expressed their opinions.

“A lot of students with jobs were coming up to us saying they would have loved the opportunity to make themselves a more condensed schedule, but a lot of science students were coming up to us saying they would have loved being able to be flexible with their finals for more study time,” he said.

Kelly Deininger, a pre-med student, thinks next semester’s schedule will not benefit her.

“I was looking at the new schedule and realized that had it been applied this semester, I would have had three of my hardest tests on the same day,” said the 20-year-old biology major.

She added that she likes the current finals schedule, as it spreads those hard exams out more, which allows for more study time and better results.

Fasullo and Bravo met with multiple administrators after being elected in April and continually discussed their proposed, student-personalized finals schedule.

When they talked with the administrators, they understood that nothing could be changed in the near future.

“We knew it was always going to be a long-term process, but we hoped down the road students would keep it going and eventually it would be a success. We were hoping to get an academic honor code in the next year, though,” Fasullo said.

Fasullo and Bravo were advised to continue research on their finals week proposal and were never told of any different potential new plan from the university.

Bosnich expressed that he wished the administration had approached USGA and asked for help surveying students and gathering a general opinion.

“We could have tabled in Damen and tried to get some opinions and then put the discussion on the [USGA] senate floor. It’s obviously impossible to get all ten thousand students’ opinions, so you just get as many as you can,” said the 20-year-old economics major.

“I am 95 percent sure that there was no student involvement in the decision — actually, I would be willing to say there was no student involvement. It was a top-down decision,” Bosnich added.

The decision was made by the Office of the Provost and the Council of Deans, who are responsible for the curriculum and scheduling of exams in each of their schools, according to the Office of Registration and Records.

The new schedule was researched extensively before being implemented, according to an email to The Phoenix on behalf of the Office of the Provost. The email stated that the schedule features a number of benefits for students. For instance, with the new schedule grades can be processed and posted more quickly, the Wednesday study day will be maintained as well as allowing students start their breaks or summer jobs sooner.

Had USGA been able to survey students and play a role in the finals week schedule change, someone on the senate would have drafted a resolution that would eventually have come to a vote. If the vote passed, it would be officially confirmed as the position of USGA, according to Bosnich.

This is not the first decision the university has made without student input. Fasullo mentioned other major situations at Loyola that students have not been involved in, such as the decision to push back recruitment for Greek Life or the decision in 2012-2013 to increase meal plan costs.

“Decisions had already been solidified when they came to us; that’s a continual pattern, and it is Flavio and [my] hope that we see more student involvement in these decisions because that’s who we represent,” he said.

However, USGA has been active in some university decision-making processes in the past. The College of Arts and Science course syllabi project, which allows students to now see past years’ syllabi online when choosing classes, was a student movement that began with USGA.

While USGA members have only an advisory position, Bosnich hopes that as elected officials, together their voices mean something.

Fasullo expressed his opinion that while he doesn’t think USGA should always “win,” there should be a back and forth and a middle ground, which there hasn’t been   for the last two years in terms of decision making.

Bosnich also emphasized that it is important for students to have a voice.

“It is, in essence, our university. We are the students. And I truly believe it’s important we have a voice in the governing of our own affairs — whether that’s hiring a new dean or helping determine the finals week schedule,” Bosnich said. “The administrators are all well-educated and very experienced, and I’m not challenging their decision-making ability in any way, but the principle is that I believe we have a voice in the governing of our own affairs — even if it’s a small one.”

“Are we actually making an impact or are we simply doing what the university wants?” he added.

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