Illinois State students will have more time to study—and maybe a little less stress—in the days before finals thanks to the new “Success Week” that debuts this semester.
Success Week (November 30 to December 4) is designed to provide time for undergraduate students to prepare for final exams. With some exceptions, it protects students from having to take big tests or turn in major assignments right as they’re studying for finals, which begin December 7.
“Finals are already a stressful time for students,” said Student Body President Ryan Powers, who worked on the revised policy. “This is one way to make finals week a little less stressful.”
Success Week is the result of a hard-fought compromise between Student Government Association leaders and faculty in the Academic Senate. Those involved say it’s a strong example of the shared governance—between faculty, staff, and students—that makes Illinois State so special.
Here’s how Success Week will work:
- Tests that amount to more than 10 percent of the course grade may not be given and due.
- Assignments worth more than 10 percent of the course grade may not be due unless they have been specified on the syllabus within the first two weeks of the semester.
- Exceptions include summer classes, make-up exams, labs, and graduate-level courses.
You can read the entire revised final exams policy on Policy.IllinoisState.edu. Students who feel their professors aren’t following the policy can bring concerns to their department chair or to the SGA.
Illinois State is hardly the first school to put some space between finals week and other major coursework. Other schools, such as Iowa State, call this slowdown “Dead Week.”
While the revised policy was only passed by the Academic Senate in February 2015, student leaders first raised concerns and suggested Illinois State’s own “Dead Week” at least three years ago.
Initially, there were concerns in the Academic Senate about academic freedom and “taking decisions out of the faculty’s hands,” said Susan Kalter, Senate chairperson and a professor of English. To address those concerns, SGA leaders did tons of research—what other schools do, and the workload our students face—and proposed revisions that worked for both sides, Kalter said.
Eventually, the Academic Senate approved the revised policy unanimously.
“It includes a lot of the feedback from faculty,” Kalter said. “(The SGA’s) research was what helped make the argument. It’s hard to argue when you have very sound reasoning like they did.”
For SGA, the change was more about scheduling, “not about what you can or can’t teach,” said Powers.
“We were able to work with faculty and educate them on why this was so important to us,” said Powers, who was previously president of the SGA assembly and also sits on the Academic Senate.
Kalter hopes Success Week will gradually become part of the academic culture at Illinois State.
“I think this is a perfect example of what shared governance is all about, and how well ISU has done it,” said Powers. “Students were not happy about something, they talked to their representatives, then SGA talked to faculty, we did some research, we found policies that would work, and worked with faculty to make sure we weren’t stepping on their rights. We were able to pass something unanimously that helped students.”
Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.