Students must demonstrate they have mastered the material…but the notion that this can only be done by administering a final exam at a given time during finals week is absurd

By Gus Bode

The idea of a student handing in a final project instead of taking a final exam at the time allotted by the University is one Provost John Dunn apparently finds unacceptable. Perhaps Dunn didn’t anticipate the opposition he would encounter from faculty over his insistence that they administer finals in every class.

Faculty members who argue academic freedom is offended by this policy make a valid point. While this requirement may not amount to censorship, it is at least a step in the direction of sanctioned interference by administrators in academic matters.

Dunn says the issue is one of the University meeting its obligations to the students – students pay a lot of money for an education, and they must receive everything they pay for, including a final exam.


This is a sound principle, but problems exist in the manner in which it is applied. For instance, there is no value in forcing students and faculty to show up at a certain time and place to perform an exercise that sheds little or no light on student performance.

At some point, students must demonstrate they have mastered the material presented in a course, but the notion that this can only be done by administering a final exam at a given time during finals week is absurd. Art students create sculptures. Cinema students produce short films. English students produce original works of fiction. All of these things can be used to evaluate a student’s understanding of course material, and none of them require a written exam administered during finals week.

Dunn acknowledges this, but then adds to the absurdity by suggesting students and faculty gather during the final exam period to critique and explain the final project. Shouldn’t the faculty member be the one to determine what meets the requirements of the course?

It would be unconscionable for a faculty member to rush through a course without making any effort to evaluate a student’s overall performance. Even more offensive is the idea that a faculty member would do so simply to end the semester early. It is up to the deans to ensure this does not happen. A blanket policy requiring a final examination regardless of the nature of the course is not the way to ensure students get a valuable education.