The Provost has sent out a memo requiring faculty to give final exams or "final unit examinations" only during exam week (the full memo is embedded below). The expressed purpose is "to ensure that students have the time to do their very best work" by not overburdening students during the last week of classes. If you aren't giving a final exam in your class on the regularly scheduled date (including if you are not planning to give any such exam at all) you are now "expected to provide an explanation" to your Chair, and the Chair will report you to the Dean, save in cases of "seminars, internships, studio classes, and independent work, where exceptions make pedagogical sense". The Dean then submits a list to the Provost by the tenth day of the semester. So Chairs are being asked to gather syllabi, and if you're not giving a final as scheduled, your chair has to decide whether that makes pedagogical sense, and if the Chair decides it doesn't, you're getting reported to your Dean and the Provost. Just what they will do with such reports is not said.
While the Final Exam schedule (as paranoid notes below--I'm cheating by editing this post a bit) has long called for all final exams to be given on the scheduled date, the policing mechanism, especially for those who don't give final exams, is new. I suspect the main goal of this policy is to make sure that faculty and students keep working into exam week. And I am, in fact, in full agreement that students and faculty ought to be expected to work that final week of the semester. There are likely special circumstances when a class should or must end before that final week (readers are welcome to spell them out in comments below). But when a faculty member decides to give the final exam on the last day of a conventional class simply to shorten the semester, he or she is shortchanging students, and may indeed not give them the time to do their best work--though the students, of course, will usually happily go along in an effort to finish the semester early.
But this policy would require Chairs, Deans, and, ultimately, the Provost to oversee whether faculty members' choices are pedagogically appropriate. For example, this policy would appear to rule out something I've done fairly often: giving a final unit exam (often just a quiz on the material from the last week or two, to keep them honest) and then having a final paper project due over exam week. If I want to do that in a class not labelled "seminar", I would now need to get my Chair's approval, and unless she concurs, she will report her findings to the Dean, who then sends a blacklist up to the Provost. The policy seems to leave it to Chairs to decide what is pedagogically appropriate or not--just the fight we had over distance learning. And the effort to make sure that we are giving our exams when scheduled is eerily reminiscent of the forms faculty were asked to fill out to make sure we were teaching our classes in their scheduled classrooms during the strike.
While I haven't discussed this with others in the FA, this policy will
likely run afoul of the FA contract, as it appears to be a unilateral
change in the terms and conditions of employment. A prior effort to
require faculty to schedule some sort of culminating experience (whether
an exam, student reports, or some other meeting) on the final exam date
was scuttled after FA opposition, though I don't remember the details.
It is very likely that the Provost doesn't remember that episode,
either, so is making the same mistake all over again.
What would a more legitimate policy look like? I at any rate would approve of the Provost reaffirming that exam week is an integral part of the semester, during which students and faculty are expected to continue and complete their work. But enforcement of this principle needs to respect the autonomy of faculty to determine how best to make use of this final week. How to enforce this principle without infringing on faculty autonomy? I suppose I would start by asking whether there is a big enough problem to institute anything like the reporting requirements the Provost would mandate.
A better policy might be simply to say that faculty are expected to be completing their teaching work that week (via a means other than correcting a final exam given the week before). That could consist of grading research papers due exam week--which seems a fitting use of student and faculty time for upper level classes. Should Chairs be asked to check up on faculty to make sure they are working that week, by reviewing their syllabi or other means? Only, I would say, as part of the "checking up" Chairs should be doing on our teaching in any event--as part of the tenure & promotion process, the regular evaluation of NTT faculty, or evaluations done for merit. I see no need for a central administration reporting process--unless it becomes clear that, despite a clear statement that exam week is an integral part of the semester, many faculty are shortchanging students by quitting early. This sort of regulation invites a slippery slope argument. Are they going to check to make sure faculty don't let out classes early? That we assign enough reading? Grade enough papers quickly enough?
In this case, in any event, why not at least start with making the principle clear, and seeing if that suffices, before setting up a burdensome scheme to police faculty behavior? Why not discuss this with the FA, and the Faculty Senate, rather than springing it on us out of the blue over the break, guaranteeing a train wreck?
Final Examination Week Memo