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Rules and Policies Governing Study Period, Final Examinations and Other End-of-Semester Exercises

Advances in pedagogy and variations in practice across fields have broadened the range of commonly used end-of-semester evaluative exercises beyond traditional sit-down final examinations. The rules and guidelines that follow aim to protect students from unreasonable demands on their time while simultaneously providing instructors the flexibility necessary to design evaluative exercises appropriate to their courses.

The Academic Calendar sets aside, after the last week of classes, a four-day study period followed by a period for final examinations. The Office of the University Registrar assigns to every course a specific day and time during final examination period at which time the course's final exam, if any, will take place. The designated final exam days and times are scheduled carefully to minimize conflicts and spread students' workloads as evenly as possible over the exam period.

It is university policy to discourage more than two examinations for a student in one twenty-four hour time period. Members of the faculty are urged to grant student requests for a make-up examination, particularly if their course is the largest of the three involved and thus has the strongest likelihood of offering a makeup for other valid reasons, e.g. a student's illness or a death in a student's family. (See also Disability Accommodation Procedure for Students below.)

Legislation of the University Faculty (as last amended by the Faculty Senate on May 14, 2008) governing study period and examinations and other end-of-semester exercises is as follows:

  1. No final examination can be given at a time other than the time appearing on the official examination schedule promulgated by the Office of the University Registrar without prior written permission of the dean of the faculty.
  2. No permission will be given, for any reason, to schedule final examinations during the last week of classes or the study period preceding final examinations.
  3. Permission will be given by the dean of the faculty to reschedule examinations during the examination period itself if requested in writing by the faculty member, but only on condition that a comparable examination also be given for students who wish to take it at the time the examination was originally scheduled. The faculty member requesting such a change will be responsible for making appropriate arrangements for rooms or other facilities in which to give the examination.
  4. The final due date for a take-home final examination can be no earlier than the date appearing on the official examination schedule promulgated by the Office of the University Registrar without prior written permission of the dean of the faculty.
  5. A course that requires a culminating end-of-semester exercise (for example, a paper, project report, final critique, oral presentation, or conference) in lieu of or in addition to a traditional final examination, must advertise at the beginning of the semester the nature of the exercise.
  6. A course that requires a culminating end-of-semester exercise and does not offer a final examination must allow students at least until the date appearing on the official examination schedule promulgated by the Office of the University Registrar to complete submission of materials associated with the culminating exercise. (For example, a student making a presentation during the last week of classes or during study period will have at least until the scheduled final-exam date to submit a final write-up or equivalent.)

Other Policies

Return of Exams, Papers, etc.
Although there is no federal or state legislation that pertains to the manner in which graded work is to be returned to students, the returning of such materials should be handled in such a manner as will preserve the student's privacy. Students have a right to examine their corrected exams, papers, and the like, in order to be able to question their grading. They do not, however, have an absolute right to the return thereof. Exams, papers, etc., as well as grading records, should be retained for a reasonable time after the end of the semester, preferably until the end of the following term, to afford students such right of review.

Posting of Grades
Posting of student grades by name or a personally identifiable number is prohibited under the terms of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). However, a student waiver authorizing disclosure of educational records by means of a personally identifiable number (e.g. a student ID number) is acceptable provided that such consent is in writing, dated and signed by the student. [NOTE: A name or social security number must never be used for this purpose.] If instructors use this method, the waiver must be for a specific course; must be for a specified period of time (semester, academic year, etc.); must specify the records to be disclosed; and must be retained by the instructor of the course for a period of one year after its expiration. Students should not be coerced into signing a waiver, as the law requires that it be voluntarily given. Instructors may post grades for students who do not want their student ID number used by establishing a unique identifier known only to that student and the instructor.

Disability Accommodation Procedure for Students

Federal and state disability laws mandate that universities make the necessary modifications to their academic requirements to ensure that they do not discriminate or have the effect of discriminating against qualified students with disabilities.

To be considered a "qualified" individual with a disability, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that a student meet the academic and technical standards for admission and continued participation in a university's education program or activity. Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) define an individual with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a history or record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. Examples of recognized disabilities include but are not limited to, blindness, deafness/hard of hearing, learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, chronic medical conditions, and mental health conditions.

Students with disabilities, the office of Student Disability Services (SDS) and course instructors all have roles in the classroom accommodation process.

The role of students in the disability accommodation process
Students who wish to use disability accommodations must self-identify to SDS and provide disability documentation at their own expense. Documentation must meet established university guidelines. Upon request, the SDS office provides registered students with an accommodation notification letter for their instructors. These letters list the approved accommodations for the student. Students must give the notification letter to the instructor and discuss their specific needs for access in the course. Students are responsible for providing sufficient notice to allow the faculty member to make the necessary accommodation arrangements.

The role of Faculty in the disability accommodation process
Faculty members are responsible for ensuring equal opportunity for students with disabilities in their courses by providing the accommodations identified on the accommodation notification letter prepared by SDS for students. Accommodations are approved for the broad academic environment. If an accommodation approved by SDS would fundamentally alter the academic structure or essential requirements of the course, the instructor should contact SDS as quickly as possible to discuss a modification to the approved accommodation. Timeliness is important to the accommodation process because it may affect the student's ability to remain in a course.

Faculty members should provide disability accommodations only for students who have provided notification letters from SDS. Students who request accommodations without an accommodation notification letter should be directed to the SDS office to learn about the university's disability accommodation procedure. The exception to this procedure is students with obvious physical disabilities who may have immediate need for access (e.g. a student using a wheelchair who may need a table rather than a desk in a classroom). Those accommodations should be made immediately and the student should be directed to follow up with the SDS office.

It is reasonable to expect two weeks notice of accommodation requests. However, if arrangements can be provided with less notice, a faculty member should do so. A small number of students registered with SDS have episodic health conditions in which they may experience unexpected episodes such as seizures or systemic flare-ups. These episodes may require accommodations such as flexibility with an absence policy and/or the opportunity to take a make-up exam. Students should disclose the potential for the need of this type of accommodation at the beginning of the semester.

When the instructor includes a statement about the accommodation procedure of the course in the syllabus, the university and the instructor are ensuring that students are well informed of their rights and minimize the potential for last minute requests for accommodations. Faculty members are encouraged to use the statement below:

Note to students with disabilities: If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic adjustments in this course, provide the (Instructor, TA, Course Coordinator) with an accommodation letter from Student Disability Services. Students are expected to give two weeks notice of the need for accommodations. If you need immediate accommodations, please arrange to meet with your (Instructor, TA, Course Coordinator) within the first two class meetings.

The role of the SDS in the disability accommodation process
The SDS staff reviews disability documentation and determines eligibility for disability services and accommodations that ensure equal opportunity and non-discrimination. SDS will confer with the student and instructor about accommodations unique to a specific course to ensure that essential requirements are met while disability barriers are addressed. SDS addresses access needs by providing accommodations such as adaptive equipment, laptops for exams, lab assistants, alternate format materials, assistive listening devices and note taking assistance.

Confidentiality
Students have the right to confidentiality of their disability status. Instructors may share accommodation information with academic support staff for the purpose of the provision of accommodations. Instructors should refrain from making any disability-related comments in front of the class or in presence of other students, faculty or staff who are not directly involved in the accommodation process. Disability documentation in maintained in the SDS office and should only be reviewed by the SDS staff.


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Contact Information

University Scheduling
Anne Becker
B07 Day Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
(607) 255-9090

Questions?
Email us at: univ_scheduling@cornell.edu.