VSG passes bills on universal test bank, extended reading days


Caitlin David

On Wednesday night, VSG senators voted to pass two bills that could create resources for all students to prepare for tests and finals. The first of these bills, Resolution S: 17-218-28 or “Resolution to Create a Universal Repository for Preparation Resources,” was proposed by Arts & Sciences Senator Sean Swinford to create a universal test bank for all Vanderbilt students. The second of these bills, Resolution S: 17-18-29 or “Resolution to Increase the Number of Reading Days Offered to Students” was proposed by Arts & Sciences Senators Sean Swinford and Tobi Shitta-Bey.

Swinford proposed the first bill to address student organizations’ current approach to test banks. Instead of these organizations maintaining test banks that are only accessible to members, a universal test bank would be available to all students on a platform such as Brightspace.

“A bunch of student organizations have test banks, and while those are legal, this decentralized approach is harmful to those students who aren’t in the organization,” Swinford said.

Instead, all students would have a centralized hub of legitimized and complete preparation materials approved by professors. Individual students could choose to upload their tests into this repository with the permission of the professor. Professors would also be able to upload other preparation materials besides tests, such as problem sets and study guides.

“I think that this [test bank] fits the goals of all faculty by promoting higher learning and education in the classroom, as well as higher test scores,” Swinford said. “I know that a lot of teachers already know that their tests populate student test banks, so I don’t think this would be an absurd idea for them.”

According to Swinford, the bill has already received support from some members of faculty. In this system, professors would be able to choose which tests are available in the repository.

“If a faculty member doesn’t want a test to populate the bank, then they can deny access to it,” Swinford said.

In addition, student organizations that currently maintain their own test banks would be encouraged to submit their materials to the universal test bank. According to Swinford, student organizations may still have their own test banks after the system is implemented, but this bill would create an avenue for all students to access a universal test bank.

A senator addressed a concern that students at Vanderbilt should be able to learn academic material without memorizing previous tests. In response, Swinford said that memorization is not the goal of a universal test bank.

“I think the goal is giving everyone more raw questions to better prepare for the test,” Swinford said. “It ensures that you’ll better understand the material more. It’s not like you’re memorizing those answers, it’s figuring out ways to answer those questions.”

Swinford and Shitta-Bey proposed the “Resolution to Increase the Number of Reading Days Offered to Students” from a study commissioned by the VSG Undergraduate Senate in 2013-14 that showed that 84% of Vanderbilt students felt that the current number of reading days offered were not adequate to prepare for final exams. According to the bill, increasing the number of reading days offered to students would promote mental and physical well-being on campus.

Currently, Vanderbilt offers 5 reading days in the fall and 3 reading days in the spring.

“We are a prestigious university, we have a lot to prepare for, we already have a lot of stress, and this bill is just saying that we’d like a couple more days to prepare for an exam,” Swinford said.

In addition, other top 20 ranked universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT and Northwestern have approximately 5-8 reading days per semester. Only the University of Pennsylvania offers as few reading days per semester as Vanderbilt.

This bill would encourage the Office of Academic Affairs and administration to add one more reading day each semester. In order to do so, Senators will work closely with administration to determine how to change class and final schedules to fit in the additional reading day.

However, Vanderbilt’s class and finals schedules are already set as far as 2021. This bill would address changes to the structure of reading days after that time.

“This is going to be very much in the future,” Swinford said.

Going forward, the senators who proposed these bills will work with administration to push the proposals towards implementation.