Late semester end attributed to ‘accident of the calendar’

Erin Ghere

Political science professor Rainer Praetorius was in an bind when he realized University finals extend until Dec. 23.
A visiting professor from Germany, Praetorius purchased a nonrefundable ticket home for Dec. 20 before knowing how late finals would go, he told his Western European Government class on the first day of the course.
Faculty members, including Praetorius, scheduled to give finals to students on Dec. 23 will be cutting the Christmas season a little close.
The political science department gave Praetorius permission to change the date of his final to accommodate his trip home, but other professors will not be so lucky.
As a condition of the new semester system, finals will continue until Dec. 23, a date many in the University community see as too close to Christmas for many traveling students and faculty members.
“There is an awareness that it is very late,” said Gordon Hirsch, director of the College of Liberal Arts honors program.
But there have not been any faculty complaints, said Judith Martin, chair of the faculty senate’s committee on educational policy.
The reason for the late date centers around the timing of the Minnesota State Fair, Martin said.
“We had no choice,” she said. “The calendar was driven by the State Fair. We could not start the school year until the day after Labor Day.”
Postponing classes until the day after Labor Day was necessary because St. Paul campus parking areas and buildings were used for the fair.
In order to fit in enough class days before the end of the semester, the last day of fall semester finals needed to be Dec. 23, Martin said.
The late ending date will be a challenge, but it cannot be avoided, Hirsch said.
“It was an accident of the calendar this year,” he said.
Faculty members are not allowed to change the date of their finals, either, Martin said, although professors with extraordinary circumstances might be able to have the date of their finals changed.
“There may eventually be more professors who give more take-home exams to their students,” Martin said.
As faculty members adjust to the date of their finals, give more take-home finals or choose to not give a final, students are feeling the effects.
Kelley Houlihan, a junior studying management, said two of her five courses have take-home finals, and at least one of her roommates is in a similar situation.
On the other hand, some students are upset that their professors aren’t doing anything about the late finals.
“One of my finals is at 8 a.m. on Dec. 23, and the professor won’t give a take-home exam,” said Justin Chapman, a junior studying architecture. “All of my other finals are on Monday, and I could leave for home on Tuesday if it weren’t for that last final.”
Student grades are not due until one week before the next semester begins, a change that might make finals schedules more palatable. That way, faculty can enjoy Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Martin said.

Erin Ghere covers University faculty and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612)627-4070 x3217.