University considers eliminating reading week to settle long-term concerns

| Senior News Editor

The impossible task of finding a seat in Olin Library during reading week may soon be no more.

Longstanding issues with teachers giving final exams outside of their assigned slots, causing scheduling snafus and substantial student stress, has led Washington University to consider changes to the finals week schedule—one proposal being the elimination of reading week.

The change would tentatively be implemented for the 2017-18 year or later.

“This is a topic we’ve been talking about for years,” University Registrar Sue Hosack said. “There probably is not going to be any huge changes soon, but we might be making some minor changes in the exam schedule.”

The University’s calendar committee, a group that establishes the academic calendar for the University, has been discussing the issue of reading week for a long time, based on feedback from students and faculty on the issues with reading week and final exam schedules.

The current proposal would involve replacing the three-day reading week with two additional final exam days. Under this schedule, final exams would end a day earlier than they presently do but still be stretched out over a greater period of time.

Committee members asked various schools for feedback from students about their thoughts on reading week, and the School of Engineering sent out a survey to its students to get their opinions. The results of the survey will be compiled and shared with the committee in February.

One of the issues Hosack thinks the committee will be dealing with first are the large classes that require a special final exam time slot that do not correspond with the time that students ordinarily have the class. This raises a problem in spring classes with large numbers of seniors because faculty may not have enough time to grade their exams before they are due.

“We may do some tweaking with some of the classes that have a majority of seniors in order to move them earlier,” she said. “But it’s a pretty complicated schedule, so there’s still a lot of discussion about it.”

Student responses to the proposed changes were mixed. Engineering sophomore Arjay Parhar doubts that eliminating reading week in order to spread out finals would be effective.

“I think reading week is a great system, and after you realize how to study during it, it’s a great thing to take advantage of,” Parhar said. “I’ve heard the University has a policy where if you have more than two [exams] on one day, you can reschedule your finals, which could solve the problem more than just getting of reading week would.”

Meanwhile, junior Amy Fjerstad said she would welcome changes to the finals week schedule.

“Last year I had finals for my three major classes all on the same day, and it was a hassle trying to get them moved around,” Fjerstad said. “Reading week is definitely nice to have, but it’s also nice to not have so much of your grade concentrated in the span of just a few days.”