Dead Week and Finals: The Year Winds Down

Jim Amidon — Remember what it was like during final exam week back in your high school or college days?

I don’t remember a thing about my Wabash College final exams. I remember the week itself quite well, but the exams have long faded from memory.

Perhaps what I remember and what I don’t is due to the fact I’d been going hard for 16-18 weeks. Finals week meant finishing three or four papers; cramming hard to make up for weeks of procrastination; pulling all-nighter’s; and mixing coffee with hot chocolate and dark cocoa with hopes of getting an extra hour of studying in before falling off to sleep. (Recall that those were pre-energy drink days.)

We’ve changed a few things at Wabash over the years. Last week was what we now call “dead week,” which might be the most poorly defined week of the year. “Dead week” is anything but dead. It’s the most lively, thriving week of the year. From a tribute to donors on Sunday through club banquets, academic awards ceremonies, student films, senior cookouts, student art exhibits and installations, and even a faculty rock band concert, last week was jam-packed.

The term “dead week,” though, suggests something different. It’s a week when professors aren’t supposed to give extra tests or assign papers in advance of finals week, which started Monday. It was a great concept a few years ago when students actually convinced their professors to go for the idea.

Perhaps I would be more accurate in suggesting that “dead week” was a great idea in theory.

In reality, “dead week” does not provide for extra study time for final exams. In reality, students use the week to wrap up experiments, complete papers, and finish projects that were supposed to be done weeks ago.

As smart as our Wabash men are, they all hold Ph.D.’s in procrastination. The sunny and warm weather of the last month surely hasn’t helped.

So this is an odd week. The students will be going through a sleep-deprived ritual not unlike how I described my finals weeks of 20 years ago; all-night study sessions and copious amounts of caffeine-laden drinks.

For the students, it is the most important week of the year. But for administrators at the College, people like me, this is the deadest “dead week” of the year. Those of us who spend the year supporting, celebrating, and nurturing student excellence can only sit back now; sit back and reflect on the year. The students are now done with us.

President Ford, early in his career at Wabash, once told me that he didn’t like summers on college campuses. I thought it was a curious statement at the moment. Then he said something like, “When there are no students here, there is no energy.”

The energy that is Wabash is slowly slipping away this week; students holed up in their study rooms, library carrels, and secret study spots preparing for final exams. There are no activities, no art openings, no sporting events left this year.

We will have one final burst of energy before we close the books on the 2005-2006 school year: Commencement.

A week from Sunday, we’ll once again have our spirits lifted — our batteries recharged — when the president rings out the Class of 2006. He will say something like, “Go forth and be good men.” We will applaud with vigor to honor of these “good Wabash men.”

We shall be uplifted knowing they are well prepared to tackle any challenge life presents. And we will anxiously await the third week of August when it starts all over again.