Dead Week

Stefanie Gamboa, News Contributor

At Oregon State University, students have long known the week preceding finals as Dead Week, where no midterm or comprehensive examinations are to be given. The week follows guidelines stated within OSU’s academic regulations.

Dead Week is never stated within these regulations and policies and not used as an official term at OSU, and yet it is used by faculty and students each term. What it represents has changed over time.

Director of Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Larry Landis, said the earliest mention of Dead Week in OSU collections is the April-May 1958 issue of the alumni magazine, the Oregon Stater.

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“The reference is to a list in the Barometer of faculty who gave exams during the week before finals that covered more than two weeks worth of class material,” Landis said. “Apparently this was in violation of the college’s policies at the time.”

According to Landis, the term likely followed a trend from other colleges and universities to informally designate the week prior to finals week.

Rebecca Mathern, associate provost and university registrar, has never had a conversation about whether the term was problematic for students with other faculty in the office.

“It helps us to use a nationally recognized term to create some structure around the rules for that week,” Mathern said.

Vice President of University Relations and Marketing, Steve Clark said, he does not know if the work allowed during the week necessarily distracts students from preparing for their finals.

“I think such work for some students could help reaffirm what they have learned previously and will be tested on in a final exam,” Clark said. “However, I do understand that other students might feel these types of activities would be a distraction from preparing for a final.”

Mathern said the work that is being done in classes during this time is to help students stay engaged in the last week of schedule courses with work that they have been doing throughout the term.

The Office of Registrar runs a computer program known as an optimizer that is able to schedule with the least amount of overlap for students, Mathern said.

“What we are really focused on are the courses that are large with group finals, getting those set up at appropriate times so there is very few conflicts for students,” Mathern said. “Then we let the rest of the courses fall in after the group finals are set up.”

The only time the department directly engages with faculty about the week is if a student or faculty feels that a professor is requiring an assignment that may not fall into regular weekly activities, according to Mathern.

“We try to allow that decision to be made at the department level,” Mathern said. “They may do an assessment and if that’s not able to happen we engage with the academic department specifically.”

Clark said Dead Week is a generally used term and he would not characterize it as an official university term.

“If students or faculty seek to reframe how members of the OSU community refer to the week before finals week as Dead Week, I would encourage community members to help lead to social change,” Clark said.

The Office of Registrar would be willing to do a student survey over a period of time if necessary with considering a name change, Mathern said.

“We are always open to conversations about what works best for students so if students engaged us in a conversation about formalizing it differently,” Mathern said. “We would absolutely be happy to talk about it.”