Students and professors confront new post-Thanksgiving exam dates

by Sydney Wuu | 11/12/20 2:05am

by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth

In a normal fall term, students wrap up exams before Thanksgiving. This year, however, the final examination period will run from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4 — after both the holiday and fall move-out. While the College says the delay — which allows for students to travel during lower-traffic times — will reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, many students and professors have raised concerns.

In light of this change, announced in late June along with the College’s reopening plan, some professors have opted to adhere to the official exam period, while others are giving exams before break, leaving students to adapt.

Abenezer Sheberu ’24 — who has a math exam, a French presentation and a “huge” paper all due on Nov. 30 — said that he will travel home to Virginia before Thanksgiving and worries about his home environment’s impact on his exams.

“It’s a bit stressful,” Sheberu said. “I would rather have had them due while I was here. I don’t have a really conducive study environment at home, so not only taking the exams, but also studying for them, is just going to be tough.”

Dylan Davis ’22 has final projects — but no exams — due after Thanksgiving. He said it feels “pretty strange” having all of his assignments due after the short break.

“I think I’m more excited to go home, to be honest,” Davis said. “ … It’s just been much more stressful this term than any other term I’ve had on campus.”

Davis expressed concern about the altered schedule, worrying that having to move out prior to finals will only exacerbate the stress posed by his heavy course workload, the ongoing pandemic and the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election.

“I don’t know how moving in the middle of working on final projects is going to be,” he said. “Getting the work done will be the most stressful part.”

Economics professor Paul Novosad is one professor who has conformed to the change, though for him the new schedule has not meant a changed syllabus. Novosad said that he uses “the same structure that [he’s] always done” in his two sections of ECON 24, “Development Economics,” with an optional take-home final paper due during the final exam period.

“I’m going to follow the guidelines, so if they say I need to have an exam at some point, then I will,” Novosad said.

Meanwhile, other professors are offering their own modifications to the new schedule. Education professor Michele Tine has given students the option to take final exams on Canvas either before they return home or during the official exam period.

Tine said she hopes to wrap up the term “in a way that would be the most equitable” given students’ varying home environments and access to the internet.

“This year, I keep coming back to the question of equity and how it applies in a unique way when we consider that we have students coming back to very different types of home environments,” Tine said. “All of those variables are going to impact a student’s ability to create time for themselves to study and to be able to temporarily shield themselves from other life stressors.”

Daniela Kyle ’22 said that she appreciates her professors making accommodations amid the later exam period, as all her final assignments are due before she travels back home to Florida on Nov. 19. However, she noted that as the end of fall term approaches, the tone on campus feels markedly different than in previous years. 

“Because of COVID, I think a lot of students who could have been here in the winter term are deciding not to be because of how dissatisfied they are with their experience on campus this term,” Kyle said. “It’s kind of just not as happy of an end to a term as it normally is.”