Ambiguity of midterm season’s definition harms student body

Graphic by Kelley Wang / The Flat Hat

As a newly-minted college freshman, I am beginning to understand how some standards are not quite universal within the world of academia. Sleep, for instance? Laughable. Food choices? Think about how manageable such a feat is outside of an undergraduate diet, and then we can talk. 

It is true that while some rather important life standards across the student population here at the College of William and Mary are quite different, there are at least clear expectations for each of these areas on what the best decisions are, including getting eight hours of sleep each night and eating balanced meals. There is one common thread to student life, however, where a lack of a fixed definition does not benefit anybody at the College: midterm season. 

To any outsider, “midterm season” would intuitively occur around the midpoint of the fall semester. In the College’s case, this would be around mid-October. Such a timeframe for midterms would also be reasonably spaced between the beginning of the semester, when students are still getting adjusted to their new schedules, regardless of the class material, and finals season, which comes at the very end of the semester as an appropriate cumulation of all the student has learned over the past semester. 

However, as the student population is aware of, midterms make their first appearances as early as late September and tests with the label of “midterm” still appear in some classes as late as November, just a few weeks before finals season. Seasons should only be fractions of any specific timeframe. For example, football season is during one point of the year, then basketball season follows. 

It is plainly evident, however, that the “midterm season” — if we are to use its start and end points as the first and last midterm exams given across campus —  takes up a vast majority of the given time frame of the semester, with finals season — by far the more important one — barely taking even two weeks of time at the end of the semester.

One would think that giving such a broad span of time for midterms to rear their ugly heads would leave quite an intimidating shadow on the lives of everyday students, and one would be right. It is quite an unfortunate reality that the apparent timelessness of midterms leaves many students spending more hours of their free time in Earl Gregg Swem Library than they originally intended for the whole span of the semester, which could place negative associations with Swem in the minds of students that it truly does not deserve as one of the greatest public university libraries in the country. 

Even more unfortunate is that such a broad timeframe also allows for some students to falsely use the excuse of “midterm season” for their own nefarious ends, whether it is skiving off club responsibilities, explaining to an angry roommate why one did not take out the trash while they were gone all day, or avoiding time for social human interaction, an activity which, though not everyone’s favorite thing to do, is absolutely vital for a healthy lifestyle.

These paradoxical factors can point to only one conclusion. The reason “midterm season” has no universal definition at the College is because it has no definition in the first place. It is a meaningless term, used to both refer to a pseudo-period of testing for which students feel that  they ought to give up some of their own valuable time and to provide an excuse for lazy students that can be used at practically any time of the semester without consequence. This should be alarming to those at the College who are concerned about the well-being of the student population and even more so to the student population which has long suffered from the tyranny of a word that has no right to exist.     

Email Lucas Harsche



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