March 6, 2007

Give us time to read during reading period

Though many U of C students take pride in their masochistic work ethic, most would appreciate a weeklong reading period—and most also deserve it. Weeklong reading periods are common at our peer institutions, even those on the quarter system such as Stanford University. The current system, allowing students only two days during 10th week, forces many students to choose between pulling several consecutive all-nighters or producing work of poorer quality than they might be able to produce with enough time.

As it is, class attendance slips during 10th week, and students often tune out during classes. Logistically, incorporating a weeklong reading period is easy, and at most two class meetings would be lost by granting students a week to prepare for exams. Final papers and exams account for a significant portion of a students’ grades and should reflect the hard work that students have done all quarter instead of their aptitude for cramming an unreasonable amount of work into a two-day period. Students deserve the freedom to budget their time in the way that’s most productive for them.

The current two-day system is further problematic in that its parameters—which ban teachers from testing or having work due during these two days—are meagerly enforced, easy to avoid, and frequently ignored. In an example that demonstrates an entire department’s choice to disregard this rule, consequently impacting dozens of students each quarter, the paper required of all Core Bio students for Writing in the Biological Sciences is due Friday of 10th week. When such instances arise, students are offered little redress other than the note Susan Art sends each quarter directing them to talk to their advisors, an avenue that creates more work for the already overworked student. Of course if students do complain, the professors can simply push the due date forward to the Wednesday of 10th week, helping no one. With an entire weeklong period, professors would not have those options.

A weeklong reading period would give students the time needed to review old material; as it is, most students use the reading period to deal with new material and new assignments. The Administration—specifically President Zimmer—has spoken frequently about its desire to improve student life. Easing students’ massive workload before finals to a more reasonable, but still rigorous, amount would be a good, easy start.