About 15 Castleton students peacefully protested outside Woodruff on Nov. 30 about a final exam schedule that keeps them at school until two days before Christmas.
The number of protesters grew after a few professors showed up with their classes to join in. Protestors made signs and talked to a reporter from WCAX about the hardship being caused by such a late finals schedule.
Adrian Lashley, a graduate student from Bermuda, went to the protest to make sure his voice was heard.
“It’s unfair to international students and it’s unfair to other students as well, but it really does affect the international students. It takes time to travel. If I was to have an exam on the last day of class, I wouldn’t get home until Christmas evening and I just live in Bermuda and that’s not that far away,” Lashley said.
The worry about students not being able to make it home in time for the holidays was one of the reasons students decided to protest.
Rebekah Jensen, vice president of Academics for the Student Government Association, said she’d heard many concerns and took them to a dean who brought the issues up with the Presidential Cabinet.
“The Presidential Cabinet agreed that this year’s exam schedule was not ideal, but said there was nothing that could be done about it at this point,” Jensen explained.
Tony Peffer, special assistant to Castleton President Dave Wolk and a member of the Calendar Committee that sets the school’s schedules, explained that the committee has to pick the least of many evils when setting the calendar.
“There is no perfect way,” Peffer said.
The school has to have 150 days total and both Peffer and professor Peter Kimmel, also on the Calendar Committee, explained that they can do 74 days one semester and 76 the other, but the total needs to be 150 for their contract with the Vermont State Colleges.
Peffer said there were other ways to make sure they had the right amount of days, like starting in the middle of the week, doing finals on a weekend or starting a week earlier, which messes with summer jobs and athletics schedules.
Starting in the middle of the week throws off lab schedules and makes move-in days in the middle of the week so parents have to take work off to get their students there.
“Because it’s tight, it’s an issue for faculty and staff but the alternative would upset a lot people too,” Peffer explained.
Breanna Morse, the vice president of the Campus Activities Board and organizer of the protest, realized that it would be hard to get a change for this year’s calendar, but she said she would like to see a student on the Calendar Committee in the future.
“It was said that a student was at the meeting where the schedule was voted on, but that student did not communicate with anybody else about it, so we would love to have people run for the position,” Morse said.
Peffer and Kimmel both mentioned that often times when students are invited as representatives, they don’t always show up.
“We have, in the past, tried to solicit direct student input, even though the contract does not require this. This has never been very successful, however, because we received very few replies to SGA surveys, etc., and the replies we do get often conflict (i.e., students want to start the semester late and end it early),” Kimmel explained.
Dean Jonathan Spiro admits to not liking the schedule either, but understands the challenges that the Calendar Committee has had.
“Something the president pointed out to me is that most employees have to work on Friday, Dec. 23, so we are training students to be good employees when they graduate,” Spiro said.