The Utah State University Student Association (USUSA) Academic Senate has spent the past two years working to improve an initiative which has been in place — but not enforced — for more than five years.
No-test week, also known as ‘dead week,’ is supposed to take place the week before finals and give students a week of extra time to study. However, for many students, it has not fulfilled this role.
Alex Hardy, a sophomore studying English, said she has had several tests during the week before finals that caused significant stress in her life.
“I just felt like it was too much at the end,” she said.
Ryan Bentall, the USUSA executive vice president and leader of the Academic Senate, said although a policy has always been in place asking professors to refrain from giving exams, the policy makes exceptions for papers, projects and weekly chapter quizzes.
In addition, Bentall said “even though it is currently in place, we have heard a lot of complaints from students about it not being enforced,” which is why the Academic Senate has been making strides to legitimize and enforce the policy.
Heather Lieber, the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences senator, said efforts to solidify no-test week policy began two years ago.
“We didn’t want all of their efforts to go to waste,” Lieber said, which is partially why this year’s Academic Senate chose to continue the initiative.
However, Lieber said the Academic Senate also received a lot of complaints from students about having tests and projects the week before finals.
To receive feedback from students, the 2015-16 academic senators sent out a university-wide survey with several questions asking students if they felt the no-test week policy was being enforced and how they would like to change it.
Based on over 4,000 responses from the survey and collaboration with the USU Faculty Senate — a group of elected and appointed university officials and student officers — the Academic Senate proposed a policy change in which professors cannot give projects, quizzes, tests or other assignments which are worth more than 15 percent of a student’s grade the week before finals.
“It’s a number we came up with because that’s where students start stressing out and have to put a lot of time and effort into those assignments,” Bentall said.
The new policy would prevent professors from giving projects or exams the week before finals in addition to a final or project being due the week of finals. However, it would not prevent professors from changing due dates to the week before finals if they did not require anything from students during finals week.
Anna Afoa, a senior studying pre-physical therapy, said she has had several tests the week before finals — rather than the week of finals — and she enjoyed it.
“I like to not have all my tests on the last week,” Afoa said.
While the Academic Senate began efforts to make this change, they felt it was important to collaborate with faculty members and ensure the proposed solution benefited everyone.
“If we presented something to faculty that they felt infringed upon their academic freedom then it wouldn’t succeed at all,” Lieber said.
Jacie Rex, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences senator, said she thinks the change will be easier to make because USUSA collaborated with faculty members.
Bentall said the change should help professors as well, because they tend to have a lot of grading papers and exams to do around the last few weeks of the semester.
“A lot of professors said this would even help them,” he said.
While he hopes professors will adhere to the policy change, “it’s up to the deans and the department heads to make sure there’s an actual change,” Bentall said.
Both Rex and Bentall said they enjoyed collaborating with faculty to make the change easier for both professors and students.
“To have this opportunity to collaborate has been a really cool experience,” Bentall said.
Rex said the proposition was easier to draft because “when you collaborate with people, it’s easier to make change.”
In order for the proposed change to be legitimized, it will have to be passed by the Academic Standards Subcommittee, the Educational Policies Committee and the Faculty Senate.
The Academic Standards Subcommittee is an entity of the Educational Policies Committee, which is a committee composed of student and faculty representatives from each college on the Logan campus, a representative from regional campuses and a representative from the provost’s office.
The Academic Senate will meet with the Academic Standards Subcommittee on Wednesday, the Educational Policies Committee in April and the Faculty Senate in May.
Graphic by Emmalee Olsen