The decision to extend classes until Dec. 14 following Hurricane Wilma was necessary. The administration didn’t really have a choice, given that there are a certain number of hours students need to be in class every semester, particularly for accreditation purposes. We don’t like having to stick around longer, but we don’t want to shortchange our (expensive) education, either.
That said, the University should have done a better job of communicating how final exams would change to the professors. Professors, perhaps living up to their stereotype of being absentminded, seem to be rather unclear about how to end the semester. Although the University was correct in giving them discretion and freedom on whether to have a final exam and on how to administer it, apparently the professors needed further guidance.
Some professors still believe that they have to give a two-and-a-half hour, cumulative final exam at 8 a.m. on a set date. They have been learning from students that this is not so. Others have taken advantage of the leeway given to them by the University and are refusing to change their syllabi and are cramming their material into the rest of November, ending their classes on Dec. 2 as originally planned. They do this saying that “things will be easier” that way, but piling on PowerPoint presentations and chapters is not the right way to go. Whether professors are “allowed” to do this or not remains unclear, but if they do, it should be because they are on top of their syllabi and not a week or a week and a half behind.
Furthermore, no one seems to know what to tell the student that has four finals on Dec. 13 because he has four classes that day. During regular finals, students could reschedule exams if they had three or more on the same day. Now, students don’t know what they are supposed to do with their conflicts, and they dread the idea of studying for four tests in one night, given that our reading days are gone.
We understand that it takes time to adjust to a new calendar, especially after an unexpected week-long break, but it’s been almost two weeks since classes started again, and problems with communication and clear guidelines persist.
Students’ winter break plans have also suffered from the schedule changes. As helpful as it is that the University will help defray some of the penalty fees for switching flights, some students have had to change their plans entirely, especially if they were planning on going abroad during the break, since now, in many cases, it is too late to find flights. We hope the University is making some exceptions to accommodate these students, as going abroad is often just as, if not more, educational than going to classes.
Miami should be used to hurricanes by now. Just like schools up North plan for snow days-and like Spring Break was invented to avoid the springtime slush following winter-perhaps UM’s Crisis Decision Team should consider adding days to our regular calendar for future fall semesters.