Students Protest Inauguration Day Exams

This story was written by Anita B Hofschneider, Harvard Crimson
For Ryan D. Zampardo, a senior in Harvard's Mather House, the first difficulty in attending the upcoming presidential inauguration is getting a ticket. A Democrat from Michigan, he has contacted his local representative in Congress but has not yet received a response.

But even if he succeeds, he will face a possibly more difficult situation than national politics: Jan. 20, the day of the inauguration, is in the middle of the colleges final exam period, and Zampardo happens to have a test that day, one that counts for 40 percent of his grade for the class and may prevent him from witnessing a significant moment in American history.

The class?

Government 1540: The American Presidency.

Over 2,000 undergraduates are set to sit for exams on Jan. 20 for almost 40 different classes. Several of them who hoped to go down to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration have had to make different plans.

For some, these different plans include resigning to remain on campus and watch the recaps later that night. For others, however, different plans means taking action.

On Nov. 18, the day after he saw the final exam schedule, Jason Y. Shah 11 formed the Facebook group Petition for Make-Ups of Harvard College Exams on Inauguration Day 2009, and within a week, the group grew to over 250 members. That day, working with Shah, Tanuj D. Parikh 09 created an online petition of the same name. The petition now has almost 600 electronic signatures.

In addition to the Facebook group and the petition, Shah and Parikh have been collaborating with other students to speak with professors and work with the Undergraduate Council to resolve the issue favorably before winter break. Last night, the UC passed a position paper advocating that students who have proof that they are attending the inauguration should be eligible for make-up exams on the Sunday before the inauguration. It will be circulated to different administrators.

Through our efforts, we hope to convince the administration and professors to offer students wishing to either travel to Washington, D.C. for the event or watch this historic presidential inauguration live the option for a make-up examination, Shah said last week in an e-mailed statement. We do not want to reschedule exams for entire classes.

Professors do not have the authority to reschedule their exams to different days. That right is reserved for the Registrars office and other administrators.

When the head teaching fellow for Government 1368: The Politics of American Education, which has its exam on January 20, contacted the Registrar about rescheduling the exam, he received an e-mail detailing the policy, which he forwarded on to his students and which was obtained by The Crimson.

FAS will be holding exams as scheduled. For individual student requests of this nature, the student would have to present their request to the Administrative Board via their Resident Dean, wrote Jampa Ghapontsang, the assistant manager of exams for FAS. We do know that a student without an invitation to the inauguration had petitioned the Ad Board last week and was denied.

Shah said he is not asking the administration to make exceptions for students particularly for the Obama inauguration. He said he hopes it will become University policy to allow students to make up exams that fall on Inauguration Day.

It is our position that every inauguration should be a day during which students are allowed to exercise their civic duty, he said.

Once the Colleges calendar changes next year, final exams will no longer fall in January. But for Shah, Parikh, and Zampardoalong with 2,000 othersthat change might come a year too late.
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