Students petition to make all final exams take-home or online


Daily file photo by Ben Pope

Over 300 students are expected to gather in one room next for their Chem 210-2 final despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Catherine Buchaniec, Design Editor

COVID-19 News

Writing to University President Morton Schapiro and other NU administrators, more than 900 undergraduate students as of Friday afternoon signed a letter requesting increased flexibility for final exams and assignments in light of the international outbreak of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus.

Sent Friday morning, the letter expressed students’ current stress in light of the COVID-19 outbreak and the danger in-person finals could pose if conducted under their current conditions. Students asked for all in-class finals to either be completely optional or provided online.
Northwestern’s COVID-19 response page currently lists several ways faculty can offer exam flexibility to students, including changing the exam to another kind of assessment, such as an essay, and offering the exam online. Some professors had informed their students Thursday of their intention to hold final exams in-person next week, as originally scheduled.
University administrators sent out a statement Friday morning to all students outlining the school’s policy for final exams.

“We strongly encourage instructors who can deliver their finals remotely or as take-home tests to do so,” said the statement. “Students are not required to attend in-person exams.”
Weinberg sophomore Giboom (Joyce) Park created the petition on Thursday, and the letter quickly gained traction through social media.
“A bunch of us were really stressed about everything happening with the coronavirus and we felt like we were living in a simulation,” Park said. “None of us had the will to study right now — people are dying.”
After talking with one of her suitemates, Park said she initially thought of pursuing a petition, but soon switched to a collective letter in order to gain more student support.
The letter highlighted the danger of gathering in large numbers, which increases the risk of exposure. The students specifically pointed to Chemistry 210-2, a large lecture class where over 300 students were expected to gather for their upcoming exam next week.
“We would like to recommend that instructors seriously consider generating students’ final grade based on past midterms or other examinations from this quarter and making the final exam an optional choice,” the letter read. “Alternatively, instructors should make their final exams accessible via a digital platform, where students would be able to complete their examinations online and in the safety of their own residence.”
University spokepeople did not return requests for additional comment on the letter.
The letter also addressed the pressure COVID-19 has placed on specific portions of the student body, including first-generation, low-income students concerned about their employment for Spring Quarter.
“Specifically, many have been forced to find accommodations and travel plans in addition to navigating work-study positions and finances: Finals are most certainly the last thing on their minds,” the students wrote.

The letter also went on to describe the concerns of international students and those with mental illnesses and physical disabilities.

Park said she has not received an official response from the University but has received notifications from friends alerting her to changes professors have made to their finals in light of the University’s statement.

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