The Daily Update: Wednesday Sept. 15

September 15, 2010 by · Comments Off 

The Daily Update: Wednesday, Sept. 15 from on Vimeo.

Join us for your Wednesday Daily Update and find out about the bomb threat at the Eiffel Tower, the crowd at the first Tate Lecture, and if students will have reading days before finals.

Dude, Where Are My Reading Days?

May 4, 2009 by · Comments Off 

By Mari Montgomery

Last semester, students noticed when there were no weekday reading days before finals.

In the past, students had at least one weekday designated to prepare for final exams, but this past semester students were left only the weekend to prepare.

“As someone taking 18 hours, I really could have used those extra days,” sophomore Grace Barlow said.

In reaction, student senator Ryan Meyer drafted and passed legislation asking SMU and the Faculty Senate to always designate a minimum of two reading days each semester.

Meyer said he noticed a downward trend in the number of reading days offered each semester. Last fall students were given the weekend to prepare for finals; this spring students have only a Tuesday to prepare; and in spring 2010 students will end classes one day and begin finals the next.

Blame It on the Calendar

Faculty Senate President Dennis Foster explained that scheduling reading days is an ongoing issue.

Foster attributed calendar issues to the debate over whether or not to distribute diplomas at graduation or to mail them to graduates at a later date. Foster said that if it was decided that SMU was not going to distribute diplomas at graduation, they could cut down the period between the end of finals and graduation to one or two days.

“Those extra days would become reading days,” Foster said.

According to Foster, what originally sparked the reduction in reading days was that the provost asked the calendar committee to reduce the time between final exams and graduation to three or four days. Since President R. Gerald Turner has asked that graduation always be on a Saturday, the calendar committee was left with the option of reducing reading days or extending the time between finals and graduation a full week.

Right now, there are only three days between the end of final exams and graduation.

“The conclusion so far is that there’s insufficient time to do it properly,” Foster said.

Foster explained that exams have to be graded and submitted, and Latin honors have to be calculated. The diplomas themselves have to be printed and distributed to all the departments. The department of records needs more than three days to complete all this, but the calendar committee has purposely left three days, just in case.

“It definitely remains an area of contention,” Foster said.

‘Not a Fair Choice’

Foster said that as a graduate professor himself, he thinks it’s important for students to have time to review during finals, whether it’s finishing up a paper or preparing for an exam.

Meyer agrees with Foster.

“It hurts us and it hurts them too because they’re not getting the student’s best effort,” Meyer said. “I know this grew out of the task force, but I don’t feel that this is a way to accomplish the goals of the task force.”

As a member of last year’s Substance Abuse Task Force, Foster said that this specific issue was never brought up, but there has been a university-wide heightening of awareness and concern for those situations which produce excessive drinking.

“Student affairs certainly keeps track of those things,” Foster said.

As a senior, Sharde Thomas wants her diploma as she walks across the stage.

“I just feel like SMU should put their heads together to work out these logistical problems so that all seniors can have the most special moment possible,” Thomas said. “It really means something to be handed your actual diploma.”

Thomas said she hopes students and administrators won’t have to choose between reading days and diplomas.

“It’s not a fair choice,” Thomas said.

The only other way Foster said he could see adding back reading days indefinitely would be to add an extra week to school, potentially allowing time for reading days and the printing of diplomas.

“But one has to consider all the additional costs of running the university an extra week,” Foster said.

He explained that in a time when everyone is attempting to cut back, it might not make economic sense.

“Essentially several different issues are intertwined and students have to understand that if something is added, something must be taken away,” he said.

According to Foster, the Faculty Senate has authority over the calendar, which should primarily be designed to work for academic purposes. The Faculty Senate tries to balance many different priorities while maintaining a calendar that works.

So, if it boils down to reading days or diplomas when she’s a senior, which would sophomore Grace Barlow choose?

“It’s a big enough deal that SMU needs to offer both, but if I had to pick I guess I’d say reading days,” she said. “As a history major it’s really miserable to turn in a term paper one day and take a cumulative final the next.”