Attendance, Absences, Reading Period, Examinations, and Extensions

Massachusetts law provides as follows:

Any student in an educational or vocational training institution, other than a religious or denominational educational or vocational training institution, who is unable, because of his religious beliefs, to attend classes or to participate in any examination, study, or work requirement on a particular day shall be excused from any such examination or study or work requirement, and shall be provided with an opportunity to make up such examination, study, or work requirement which he may have missed because of such absence on a particular day; provided, however, that such makeup examination or work shall not create an unreasonable burden upon such school. No fees of any kind shall be charged by the institution for making available to the said student such opportunity. No adverse or prejudicial effects shall result to any student because of his availing himself of the provisions of this section. (Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 151C: Section 2B).

Attendance

Regular attendance at course meetings and related events is expected of all students. Furthermore, students are expected to remain in the immediate vicinity of Cambridge during the Examination Periods, Reading Periods, and term time with the exception of scheduled vacations and holidays. Students may not be absent from the area for extended periods of time during the term without the permission of their Allston Burr Resident Dean or the Dean of Freshmen.

A student on probation is required to attend all academic exercises. Unexcused absence by a student on probation renders him or her liable to requirement to withdraw from the College at any time.

By vote of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences instructors are required to hold their regular classes on the days preceding and following holidays and vacations. They are not permitted to allow temporary transfer of students from section to section or to excuse students at these times.

Restricted Attendance

With the exception of classes held prior to the filing of study cards, when any registered student may attend a class, only students enrolled in a course and auditors who have been given specific permission by the instructor ordinarily may attend course meetings. From time to time, instructors may permit other guests, such as colleagues, parents, alumnae/i, or prospective students, to attend individual class meetings; however, instructors are always free to restrict attendance at a class meeting or meetings to regularly enrolled students and authorized auditors.

Absence from Classes

A student should report all absences that may have a significant effect on his or her status to his or her Resident Dean and to the instructor(s) of the course(s) concerned. A student who is called away in an emergency or is otherwise unavoidably absent from College should notify his or her Resident Dean both before departure and upon return. Absence from College without such notification may lead to requirement to withdraw. A student who is sick may consult either Harvard University Health Services or his or her own physician but should report all cases of serious illness promptly to Harvard University Health Services either in person or by telephone (617-495-5711).

Absence from academic exercises, for whatever reason, including representing the College in extracurricular and athletic activities, does not relieve a student from responsibility for any part of the work in the course required during the period of absence.

Storm and Emergency Conditions

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences rarely cancels classes due to weather. However, the faculty and section leaders who need to commute should not put themselves in danger during serious storms, and may choose to cancel their individual classes. Students may find the following information helpful:

Hour and Midterm Examinations

The administration of hour and midterm examinations (not midyear) is the responsibility of the instructor; ordinarily, such exams should be scheduled during regular class meeting times. Instructors are required to offer makeup exams to students who are absent from hour and midterm examinations for the observance of a religious holiday. If an instructor is satisfied that an absence for another reason is necessary and that omitting a grade for the missed hour or midterm examination will not affect the student’s course grade, final evaluation of the student’s work in the course may be determined from the remainder of the course work. The instructor may also elect to give a makeup examination. The responsibility for such decisions rests with the instructor only, and not with the Dean’s Office or the Administrative Board.

Although instructors are obligated to offer makeup exams only in the case of absence for the observance of a religious holiday, students who have obtained proper Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) documentation of illness may not be penalized for their absence from hour and midterm examinations. The appropriate form must be signed by a HUHS medical professional and given to the student’s Resident Dean, who will write the student a letter that acknowledges receipt of the HUHS form. This letter may be presented to the instructor as certification of the student’s illness.

Absences for Religious Reasons

In accordance with Massachusetts law, students who are unable to participate in an hour or midterm examination as a consequence of their religious beliefs shall be provided with an opportunity to make up the examination, without penalty, provided that the makeup examination does not create an unreasonable burden on the College. It is the responsibility of the students concerned to provide instructors with the dates on which they will be absent because of a conflict with the religious holidays they will be observing.

Reading Period

At the end of each term, a period of eight days prior to the start of final examinations is designated as Reading Period. During this time, faculty members may choose not to hold formal class meetings. Those who exercise this option often do so in order to allow students to work independently, exploring special topics or integrating the material covered in the course through a term paper or other project. Those courses that have a final exercise other than a regular three-hour final examination schedule these activities during Reading Period. Some courses continue to meet on their regular schedules during much of Reading Period.

Regardless of whether a class meets during Reading Period, that time is an integral part of the term. Students are expected to remain in the immediate vicinity of Cambridge throughout this period.

Final Examinations

Final examinations will be held at the end of all courses unless the Registrar, acting on behalf of the Dean of Harvard College, has approved an exam substitution such as a project or major paper. Substitutions are always due no later than the last day of Reading Period. In courses that run throughout the year, final exams will be held at the end of both the fall and spring terms.

The Registrar schedules and administers all final examinations scheduled during the Midyear and Final Examination Period. They are three hours in length. There are two exam sessions each day. Morning exams begin at 9:15 am and afternoon exams begin at 2:00 pm. Official dates and times for exams are published on the Final Examination Schedule which is available at www.registrar.fas.harvard.edu near the beginning of each Reading Period. This schedule is subject to change as required.

To seek accommodations for a final exam on account of disabilities, undergraduates must direct their petition to the Accessible Education Office. The Accessible Education Office will work with the faculty member and the Exams Office to make arrangements for accommodations when appropriate and will contact the student directly about the accommodations. For more specific information about final exams please consult the Website of the Accessible Education Office.

Students are responsible for learning the times and locations of exams in their courses and for arriving at their exams on time. Students who miss an exam and who are not granted a makeup exam will receive a permanent ABS (unexcused absence), which is equivalent in all respects to a failing grade.

Most instructors return examination booklets, papers, and other academic work to the students enrolled in their courses. By law, students have the right to review all materials submitted to a course, including final examination booklets, and for a reasonable charge may have copies of any originals not returned to them within 45 days of the date of the original request.

Examination Rules

Students should adhere to the following rules during the administration of regularly scheduled midyear or final examinations.

For violation of the examination rules or dishonesty in an examination a student may be required to withdraw from the College. Students who fail to obey the instructions of an examination proctor are liable to disciplinary action.

Late Arrival To Examination

A student who is late for an exam may be refused admission and reported as absent. The Registrar has been given full authority to make the decision regarding late entry into an exam room. Students who are late for a final exam should report directly to the exam room up to the hours of 9:45 am for a morning examination or 2:30 pm for an afternoon examination. After that time they should report to the Exams Office in the Science Center, Room 112. If the student is allowed entry to the examination, no penalty will ensue for the time spent in the Exams Office. No one will be admitted to an examination if any student has already left the examination room. Ordinarily, latecomers will not be allowed to make up lost time.

Illnesses During the Examination

A student who is present for any part of an examination is never entitled to a makeup exam. Any student who becomes ill during an exam, however, should report the illness immediately to the proctor. The proctor will have the student escorted to HUHS, where the student will be kept incommunicado until able to resume the examination. Upon resumption, the student will be allowed only the balance of time remaining.

Absence from Examinations

To obtain credit for a half-course having a final examination, a student must have attended the examination (or its equivalent approved makeup). To obtain credit for a full course having fall term and spring term examinations, a student must have attended both exams (or equivalent approved makeup). A student who is absent without excuse from the final examination (or the equivalent approved makeup) of a full course fails the entire course and receives no credit for either half of it.

Any student who has an unexcused absence at the fall term final exam in a full course must either petition to withdraw from the course without credit (no later than the seventh Monday of the spring term) or petition to be allowed to continue in it in the spring term for half-course credit only, in which case the failing grade of ABS is permanently recorded for the fall half of the course (see Withdrawing from Courses Without Credit and Full Courses— Divisible and Indivisible).

A student may petition for a makeup examination because of illness only if the illness is documented by medical staff at HUHS within the 24-hour period before the beginning of the examination. Students may choose, however, to take the exam while at Stillman Infirmary. This is acceptable under certain circumstances. In an emergency, a student’s illness could be reported to HUHS by a private physician, before the beginning of the examination. The private physician must also supply a written statement to HUHS.

Unavoidable absence from an examination resulting from causes other than illness should be reported and explained in advance to the appropriate Resident Dean.
A student whose record is unsatisfactory because of an unexcused absence from a final or makeup examination ordinarily will be placed on probation or, if the record as a whole so warrants, required to withdraw (see Procedures of the Administrative Board).

Absences for Religious Reasons

In accordance with Massachusetts law, students who are unable to participate in a final examination as a consequence of their religious beliefs shall be provided with an opportunity to make up the examination, without penalty, provided that the makeup examination does not create an unreasonable burden on the College. Students are expected to anticipate any religious conflicts with exams and report the conflict in writing to the Exams Office at fasexams@fas.harvard.edu by the last day of classes each term.

Makeups for Examinations: Excused Absences

The Administrative Board has jurisdiction over granting makeup examinations. No instructor may grant or give a makeup examination to any student who missed a final examination without the express authorization of the Registrar and the Administrative Board; nor may a makeup examination be given at any time or place other than that specified by the Registrar. A student granted a makeup exam is not thereby granted an extension of time to complete other written work for the course. Such an extension is granted only by special vote of the Administrative Board (see Extension of Time for Written or Laboratory Work).

Petitions for makeup exams are due in the office of the Resident Dean as soon as possible and no later than one week after each examination. Students having a medical excuse will fill out the petition form at HUHS and take the form personally and directly to the Resident Dean. Students wishing to be excused for other reasons should see their Resident Dean.

A student whose petition for a makeup examination has been granted by the Administrative Board must take the makeup examination at the next regularly scheduled makeup period. Typically, the makeup period is the third week of the following term. No other opportunity to take the examination will be allowed. It is the student’s responsibility to learn exactly when and where the makeup examinations will be given.

The beginning dates for fall and spring term Makeup Examination Periods are listed in the Academic Calendar. The Registrar notifies students via email who have been granted permission to take one or more makeup exams. The email notification specifies the scheduled time and place of their makeup examination(s). If students do not receive an email notification about a makeup exam, it is their responsibility to obtain such information from the Registrar at least two weeks before the beginning of the makeup Examination Period.

A student who has been granted a makeup exam by the Administrative Board but has neither taken it nor canceled it in writing to the Registrar with a copy to the Resident Dean at least one week in advance of the beginning of the Makeup Examination Period will ordinarily be admonished by the Administrative Board. A student who has missed a final exam and not been granted permission for a makeup will be given the failing grade of “Absent” (ABS) for the course and is thus eligible to be placed on probation or required to withdraw, depending on his or her academic record for the term.

Students granted makeup examinations and/or extensions of time beyond the end of the Examination Period in two or more courses will not be allowed to register for the next term except by special permission of the Administrative Board. A student granted a makeup examination is not eligible to receive the degree until after final grades have been reported for all of his or her courses.

Examinations in Absentia

In exceptional cases, students who cannot be in Cambridge at the time of a final or makeup examination may request permission from the Administrative Board to take the examination in absentia. Applications are available from the Allston Burr Resident Dean, the Resident Dean of Freshmen, and the Registrar, and are due to the Registrar no later than the last day of classes.

Petitions for in absentia exams from members of Harvard College athletic teams participating in tournament competitions and students who are either on leave or studying elsewhere for Harvard degree credit may be approved by the Registrar. Other requests require permission of the Administrative Board. Before petitioning to take an examination in absentia, students should consult their Resident Dean.

Students are responsible for any fees incurred in the administration of an in absentia examination, including proctoring fees, return postage, and any extraordinary costs incurred in the delivery or administration (room rentals, media rentals, etc.). The University’s in absentia examination fee of $100 does not include the costs listed above. The University’s fee is waived only for students who are studying abroad for Harvard degree credit with prior approval of the Faculty Committee on Education Abroad in institutions where the academic schedule conflicts with the Harvard Examination Period or for certain University-sponsored intercollegiate athletic events.

Extension of Time for Written or Laboratory Work

Students who encounter unexpected difficulties in completing their work should immediately consult their Resident Dean.

Extensions of time up to the end of the Examination Period may be granted by the instructor. Ordinarily, the student must have received the consent of the instructor before the final examination (or before the final meeting of a course in which there is no final examination). No instructor may accept work from a student in any term after the end of the Examination Period without the express authorization of the Administrative Board.

An extension of time beyond the end of the Examination Period can be granted only by vote of the Administrative Board and only in exceptional circumstances. A student who, for medical reasons, fails during any term to complete the required work in a course, including laboratories, problem sets, or papers, may petition the Administrative Board through the Resident Dean for an extension of time commensurate with the time missed to make up the work.

Students granted extensions of time beyond the end of the Examination Period and/or makeup examinations in two or more courses will not be allowed to register for the next term except by special permission of the Administrative Board. A student granted an extension of time is not eligible to receive the degree until after final grades have been reported for all of his or her courses.

The notation “Incomplete” (INC), used in the grading of graduate students, cannot under any circumstances be given to undergraduates. In those cases where the Administrative Board has in advance voted approval of an extension of time, the temporary notation EXT will be made for the duration of the extension voted by the Administrative Board. EXT is only a temporary notation; a final grade must be given upon the expiration of the extension as approved by the Administrative Board or if additional time is not granted by the Administrative Board.