On an academic level, requiring seniors to present a strong and well-argued defense of their thesis or write a four-hour exam at 9 a.m. the day after Dean’s Date is entirely counterproductive and unfair. Because some of the most rigorous comprehensive exams are in the departments most likely to require their students to submit a significant amount of work for Dean’s Date, it seems unreasonable to expect them to perform at a high level the very next morning given the lack of sleep and outright exhaustion most students face after 5 p.m. on Tuesday. The University has already acknowledged this problem in regard to normal undergraduate exams and eliminated the morning exam slot on Wednesday to allow students more time to study and rest. Due to the impact senior departmental exams have on honors a student receives at graduation, it seems inconsistent that the University would not treat them with equal or greater weight than ordinary exams. On the one hand, although some may argue that it should be easy for students with theses defenses to discuss a project they have spent months completing, on the other hand, why should the University allow the relative workload a student faces at Dean’s Date to detract from his or her ultimate presentation? Some departments have already taken steps to mitigate this timing issue by shifting the start times back from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.; however, given that the University delays all standard exams until 1:30 p.m., it does not seem unreasonable to expect at least that much of a delay for the comprehensive exams.
Beyond academic concerns, it also seems reasonable that the University should acknowledge the importance of Dean’s Date as one of the few remaining times in most seniors’ tenures at Princeton when the entire student body can take a collective sigh of relief and enjoy itself. Dean’s Date is frequently a time for important events in the residential colleges, for extracurricular clubs and for casual relaxation with friends. Indeed, the University itself acknowledges the importance of reserving some time for non-academic affairs by sponsoring festivities in McCosh Courtyard. As this Board has noted in the past, the University collectively comes together too few times throughout the year, and it seems a shame that the timing of senior departmental exams, which is also academically problematic, should detract from such an opportunity. The University should push back these exams to Thursday and Friday and let seniors end their undergraduate careers on a high note both inside and outside the classroom.