Schedule splits for fall semester finals at SDSU

While the start of a new semester is getting the attention of students this time of year, it’s how the semester will close that will require a big change in how students prepare for final exams at SDSU.

Along with a new final exam policy, which was revised in April, the schedule for final exams will move to a Thursday through Wednesday format, instead of the traditional Monday-Friday setup. The new schedule also includes a reading day, scheduled for the day between the end of the semester and the beginning of finals. In 2013, the reading day – where students won’t have classes but the university will be open for regular business – will be held Wednesday Dec. 11. 

That layout is the plan through 2019-20 because the South Dakota Board of Regents has set the schedules well in advance. The split schedule is only in effect during the fall semester in those years as well. All six public universities in the state will go by that schedule during that period and in each year, the semester will finish before Dec. 20. 

Overall, classes won’t be in session any longer than previous years, with the usual 76 days of classes in effect. SDSU will not hold classes on the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving, as the university did in the past and the reading day before finals are two new days off. However, the start of classes at SDSU (Monday, Aug. 26) was also an alteration from previous years, moved up two days from a usual Wednesday start date. All in all, there’s no net change in the number of days in class. 

Finals for the Fall 2013 semester will be held Thursday Dec. 12 and Friday Dec. 13. The exam schedule will break for the weekend before resuming Monday Dec. 16 through Wednesday, Dec. 18.

Laurie Nichols, the provost for SDSU and vice president for academic affairs, said the policy is one handed down by the BOR. Nichols said SDSU never considered having finals over the weekend, which is done at some schools around the country. 

So, will this new setup work? Students aren’t too sure. 

“It’s kind of pointless,” said Hayden Bauman, a sophomore student from Luverne, Minn., who has yet to settle on a major. “The people with tough classes will take it seriously and the people who don’t have tough classes will slack off and go party.”

Kayla Streit, a senior pharmacy student from Hawarden, Iowa said she’s guessing she’ll get nervous about upcoming tests because of the break for the weekend. 

“I’m someone who likes to just take the tests and get them over with as quickly as I can,” Streit said. “I guess I liked it the way it used to be.” 

She believes a lot of her friends would treat the weekend like any other, even if it’s in the midst of finals week. 

There weren’t any students against the designated study day, however.

“It really depends on when your finals are scheduled and how difficult your classes are,” Bauman said. 

“It could be nice,” said Dustin Veurink, a senior journalism student from New Holland. “You get a day to study before two days of finals and then two days to study for three more days of tests.”

Nichols has heard quite a bit of the concerns as well. 

“I’ve mostly just had a lot of questions asking ‘Is this for real?’ Nichols said. “And I know this is a really different model from what we’ve used in the past but I think after a year, those questions will go away and everyone will be on the same page.”

Nichols said there are professors and instructors who are concerned about how students will use the weekends and whether or not students will use it to study for the final three days of finals. 

The times for the final examinations are also being altered in time for this semester and students will be allowed a two-hour window for each final exam. Finals for classes with multiple sections will start at 7:00 a.m. and will run until 9:00 a.m. Finals will also be held at 9:15 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:45 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on each exam day. 

Nichols said the final exam policy itself will be good for the university because it takes out room for interpretation or confusion among students and staff. Among other items, it requires instructors to meet face-to-face with students during finals week, regardless if the class has a true exam or not. In addition, it reiterates that the university’s attendance policy applies during finals week and missing class during that time means students could get a zero for their final exam. 

Editor’s Note: A copy of the final exam policy can be found on the sdstate.edu website or with this story at sdsucollegian.com.