Juliann Garisto/THE VARSITY

Students writing final examinations in December at the University of Toronto should book off their weekends, as the UTSG exam schedule includes Friday morning and Saturday exam slots for the first time. UTM and UTSC have had Friday morning and Saturday exams for several years.

According to Steve Bailey, director of academic and campus events at U of T, the additional exam times are the result of a late Labour Day this year. Since classes did not begin until the third week of September, there is less time for students to write their exams at the end of the semester.

Abdullah Shihipar, president of the Arts & Science Students’ Union (ASSU), told The Varsity that he does not think that the situation could have been avoided. “Having discussed this with the faculty, the academic calendar is quite constrained this year and it seems like Saturday exams were the only option to fit all these exams, while keeping the study period,” he said.

Shihipar noted that the schedule might cause problems for students who have exams at the same time as their religious observances, and for students for whom commuting on weekends can be an additional challenge. “These students will be accommodated like an exam conflict… It is not an ideal situation and the Faculty seems to acknowledge this,” Shihipar said.

“Saturday exams might seriously affect Jewish students on campus as it goes against the rules of Sabbath. [The] university has to resolve this situation and at least offer alternative days of exam sitting,” said Yana Staroverova, a third-year mathematics and economics student.

Alex Verman, a fourth-year political science student and ASSU executive, echoed Staroverova’s concerns. “As a Sabbath-observant Jew, I know that this introduces another unpleasant complication that students will have to navigate.”

Verman resolved to help students access the accommodation they need in order to write their exams free of conflict. “I can only hope that the Faculty will be cooperative, patient, and lenient, fee-wise, with providing exam deferrals, especially to those students who cannot write exams on Saturdays for religious reasons, and I intend to work to that end,” he said.

U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science website states that students who have exams scheduled at the same time as religious observances should contact the faculty registrar for assistance.

Doyun Kim, a second-year East Asian Studies student, does not believe the schedule is fair to students. “I can understand why [the new examination times] were put in place; however, for students, it largely cuts into time that is set aside for their own use, and adds to the stress of student life,” he said, highlighting the inconveniences of extra commuting.

“One particular inconvenience is that commuters who live away from the campus area of downtown Toronto will face their commutes for just one to three hours of exams on days when they normally would not make the commute,” Kim said. “This costs money and time that they could spend on other pursuits — destressing from exams, studying for other exams, or following other interests.”

“Given that students tend to look forward to Friday mornings/Saturdays as time that they have to take care of themselves, I believe that it is to the detriment of students’ mental health and wellbeing to take this time away from them as a permanent change. Perhaps it makes sense only as a temporary measure introduced for this single semester,” Kim said.

Looking to future examination schedules, Shihipar said that Friday morning and Saturday exams will probably be here to stay. “We know that this will likely be in place next year; however, we are hoping it does not go beyond that.”

With files from U of T News.

Alex Verman contributes to The Varsity.

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