An Open Letter to the Provost

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Thoughts on the looming presence of final exams. Martin Vorel from Pixabay

Final grades should be re-evaluated

By Kate Nimegeers, Contributor

My name is Kate Nimegeers and I have been a member of the university community since 2010 when I began my first undergraduate degree in business administration. As of right now, I am considered a third-year student in my second undergraduate degree in the Department of Mathematics.

I am writing to you because, as someone who has been really struggling with the new changes that we are all facing, I truly believe that the administrative leaders at the University of Regina can provide myself and the rest of the student body with some much-needed relief. I am writing to you publicly so that if my sentiment is shared, perhaps others will be inspired to also reach out with their own letters of support for my suggestion.

First off, I want to thank you all for the hard work that you have undoubtedly been putting in over the past month. This change has been difficult on all of us, and I realize that the people who are forced to make difficult decisions for our campus are no doubt feeling that pressure. That being said, as a student who has been directly impacted by all of these changes, I would like to ask that you consider my suggestion for how final grades/exams should be dealt with.

To be frank, I usually struggle with my mental health during finals season. Part of this is because finals are always difficult, but it is also because I have aspirations of attending grad school and my final grades impact my chances of being accepted. The extra effort that is required to get top marks in final exams is comparable to an educational marathon.

It is difficult, but in previous semesters I have managed the stress through things like studying with friends, working at coffee shops, finding quiet spaces to focus in the library, and spending time working on problems with professors during their office hours.

However, as you are aware, none of those coping mechanisms have merit while we face the COVID-19 crisis. The shift from “regular life” to a life where leaving the house is equivalent to endangering yourself and others, classes are held online, and the general sense of global panic increases by the hour (all while our sense of existential continuity continues to shatter) has been mentally taxing in a way that is otherwise incomparable.

Adding that pressure on top of the pressure of exams while simultaneously eliminating the coping mechanisms that many students use to deal with exams is, in my opinion, unsustainable. When you also consider that we are now being asked to learn material from online sources rather than in person, that lack of sustainability is simply compounded further.

It is because of the extreme levels of stress that I am facing, and that I am sure many of the thousands of U of R students are facing, that I ask you to please consider eliminating final exams from course requirements this semester and allow us to use that time to cope with the existential grief we are feeling.

This solution would allow me to breathe again, knowing that the effort I put into this semester will not be wasted, my applications to grad schools will not be compromised by a final exam that felt insurmountable, and that I can now focus on more immediate issues such as looking after my family and myself during this crisis.

I understand that not everything is as simple or straightforward as I might wish and that this would be a big decision for the university to make. I understand that each university has to balance the well-being of staff, faculty, and students while maintaining a reputation in the community at large. Please just know that it would be seen by myself, and I suspect many other students, as an act of grace in an otherwise hectic situation.

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