An open letter to classes that assign final papers in addition to exams

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Elaine Chung/File

Dearest History 149AF, 

We understand that final papers and exams are a necessary evil. This is not to say we appreciate or enjoy either, but we’ve come to accept their omnipresence in our learning career. What we can’t comprehend is your desire to include both of these vices in one course. The assignment of a final paper in addition to an exam is a bizarre recipe for punishment that should be forbidden by the 8th Amendment.

The U.S. Declaration of Independence affords us certain unalienable rights. Although Thomas Jefferson probably didn’t have our college academic careers in mind when he drafted this nation’s founding document, the concept is applicable nonetheless. Whether the one-two combo of research papers and final exams infringes on our rights of life and liberty is up to the jury — but we can unquestioningly assert that they infringe on our pursuit of happiness. Not to mention our sanity, sleep and ability to function without caffeine coursing through our veins.

If there’s one thing that our Phase I has taught us, it’s that you can’t have it all. (The three waitlists we’re currently on have taught us that sometimes you can’t have anything.) An executive decision must be made. You must choose whether you want us to suffer from 7-10 p.m. on May 11 or struggle for three weeks with a 30-page research paper. Burdening students with both is simply not an option. This is not Target, so cut this buy-one-get-one-free nonsense. Unless your class has suddenly become a dollar bin, we’re not interested.

As much as we’d like to say that this class is the only one that we need to worry about, that’s simply not true. We’re in the throes of last-ditch efforts on multiple fronts as we attempt to save our grades in four different classes. A quick number crunch by your local applied mathematics major will show that the amount of time expected of us in this course multiplied by four is simply infeasible. Even if we sacrificed eating, sleeping and the negative three times we go to the gym every week, we would still not be able to meet the time demand. 

We ask that you please play eeny, meeny, miny, moe between a paper and exam — not for our sake, but for the GSIs’. Their obligation to read more 450 pages, only to turn around and grade a small forest’s worth of green books, truly breaks our heart. They’re just trying to get by in a rich man’s world.

Sincerely,

Writer’s Block

Contact Amanda Chung at [email protected].