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Reducing confusion over snow days and exams The university should revise their inclement weather and examinations policies to reduce student confusion over rescheduled exams

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December is fast-approaching: holiday shopping is underway, the weather is dropping and students are beginning to prepare for final examinations. But with this winter forecasted to be especially harsh, students should also prepare for the possibility of rescheduled exams.

For the fall 2018 term, McMaster University plans to run final examinations for a 12-day period from Dec. 7 to Dec. 20. While students are given their exam timetable at least a month in advance, there is an expectation for students to remain available throughout the entire examination period. With many students creating their travel and holiday plans around their final exams, is this a fair expectation?

During the past winter term, McMaster was closed on Apr. 14 due to inclement weather. Exams scheduled to be written that day were rescheduled to Apr. 22, which fell within the examination period. Students, however, had mixed reactions to this rescheduling. Many had made travel plans under the assumption that their last exam was on Apr. 14 and questioned the seemingly arbitrary eight-day push.

 

Universities should prioritize safety and close when inclement weather has the potential to create unsafe situations for anyone on campus. However, the policies surrounding inclement weather and exams need to be made clear and more comprehensive to reduce student confusion when closures occur.

McMaster’s Undergraduate Examinations Policy states that “Students must be available for the entire examination period as listed in the Sessional Dates section of the Undergraduate Calendar. Examinations will not be re-scheduled for purposes of travel.”

Though this policy makes sense in the event of rescheduled exams, the university should understand that students have commitments outside of their studies that often must be made well in-advance. It seems unfair to make students plan to wait out the entire examination period, especially when they are scheduled to finish exams within the first few days.

The current policy also fails to have any buffer room for exams that must be rescheduled nearing the end of the examination period.

For example, if there was a snow day on the very last day of the examination period, would students be expected to write exams during their holidays? Would they be pushed to the deferred examination period, taking place months after the scheduled time? The policy as-is does not address these important questions.

In fact, the only mention of how exams are rescheduled is found in a separate Storm Emergency Policy, which states that in the event of inclement weather, exams are scheduled to the following Sunday within the examination period. However, this still does not address the possibility for a closure late in the examination period.

One solution could be to have a dedicated few days for rescheduled exams. Rather than have a test and examination ban that few classes adhere to anyways, the term could be shortened. Thus, instead of ending classes on Dec. 5 and starting exams on Dec. 7, classes could end Nov. 30 and exams can start virtually a week earlier on Dec. 3. This then provides the necessary buffer time in the Dec. 17 to Dec. 20 period that can be used for rescheduled exams as necessary.

Students would still be expected to remain available throughout the examination period, but at least there would be a clearer understanding on how exams are rescheduled and reassurance that they will not interfere with the official holiday period.  

Although there is a level of accountability towards students to understand the expectations of the university, the university must also make their expectations clearer.

The office of the registrar’s official site for exams does not clearly outline this information without requiring students to find and read both the McMaster’s Undergraduate Examinations Policy and the Storm Emergency Policy.

As of now, it appears that only the DeGroote School of Business explicitly warns their students against making travel plans within the examination period.

While the responsibility to read both policies falls on students, there is no reason to not publicize their expectations more. Including a comment on students’ exam timetables on Mosaic can easily reduce some of the confusion that arises during rescheduled exams.

In addition to increasing the delivery of their expectations to students, the university should strive to publicize announcements of closures in a more effective manner. Not all students have or check social media. Sending an email to students better communicates closures and rescheduled exam details, and should be included in a revised inclement weather and exam policy.

 

It is evident that McMaster University should revise their current examinations and inclement weather policies to be more comprehensive regarding final examinations. Ideally, this information should be made accessible to students in a singular, readily-available policy.

At the very least, the university should be more vocal to students about their expectations to avoid confusion over the upcoming examination period.

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Author: Sabrina Macklai

Sabrina Macklai is the Opinion Editor for Volume 89. A fourth-year Integrated Science student completing her thesis in analytical chemistry, she is a wearer of many hats - so long as the hat sparkles! Since she was a child, she’s had a love for the written word and has been involved in several publications including scientific journals and creative writing magazines. She firmly believes that everyone has a story to tell and it is her ambition to help as many as possible share theirs with the world.