Students taking an exam in finance senior lecturer Heidi Toprac’s class must remember to bring one thing: a working calculator. If a student doesn’t, it could cost them points on the test.
Instead of lending students calculators, Toprac uses a different system. To enforce accountability in her Foundations of Finance class, students must rent her calculators at a fee of one exam question, or three points. According to her syllabus, this includes students forgetting their calculators at home as well as calculators running out of batteries.
Toprac said this system is better than students not having calculators at all. It is also necessary because dozens of students stopped attempting to bring their own materials and started relying on her calculators in the past, she said. After enforcing this rule in spring 2015, she said only one percent of the class, or two students per exam, opted to use her calculators.
“It seems to be striking the right balance between compassion and consequences,” Toprac said. “If students forget their calculators and batteries, there is a consequence. It is not the responsibility of the University to provide these tools.”
However, many students in the class, such as Samid Mirza, said it is wrong to be charged points for calculator mishaps.
“Taking off points is definitely unethical,” geography junior Mirza said. “Grades can indeed be jeopardized. Someone could lose out on scholarships or graduate school admissions just from a faulty calculator.”
Mirza said students should not be penalized, especially for something unpredictable.
“Students are not fortune tellers,” Mirza said. “We cannot predict whether something might go wrong with our calculator or not.”
Nick Van Den Handel, another current student in Toprac’s class, said while he has never had to rent a calculator, he has experienced problems in the past that could have placed him in that position.
“I had a bottle of water that opened up in my backpack and destroyed my calculator so I had to throw it out,” said actuarial science senior Van Den Handel. “There isn’t much you can do.”
Not all students question the ethics of this system. History senior Tito Villegas, who took this class in 2017, said he agrees with Toprac.
“I think it’s fair,” Villegas said. “I would hate to have to carry around calculators for students. It just shouldn’t be out from the pockets of professors.”