Chancellor's Friday Letters

Take care of your ‘swotter’

Take care of your ‘swotter’

December 3, 2010

Dear Friends,

December, of course, is replete with events, from Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hannukah, and Eid-ul-Adha to Winter Solstice.

But for our students and faculty, today is Swotvac.

What the heck is Swotvac?

It is a time of great intensity, academic importance, and a propitious time to provide extra support and encouragement to our students.

Swotvac is followed by a second significant event that I’ll get to in a moment.

The Scottish word “swot” is to sweat or do work hard, and “vac” is an abbreviation of vacation.

The term has evolved colloquially to that of a student working intently on his/her schoolwork at a time free from classes. In other words, a few days of finishing projects, take-home exams, and cramming for the second significant event … Final Examinations.

For our students this is a time of higher stress, and I encourage friends and family to offer extra support by word or deed.   This is especially true for students who have not experienced finals before at the University of California, where the importance and expectations are high.

How can you help?  A word or two of loving support – a call, a text message, or a tweet.  Ear plugs.  Energy bars.  Probably not an unannounced visit to the residence halls … but try a box of cookies and chocolate milk, or whatever comfort food works.

This morning a few members of my office and I – along with a special guest – will make a few rounds on campus.  We’ll visit known study spots to offer our encouragement and sinful nourishment to our wonderful students.

The workload for our faculty and academic staff goes way up this time of year as they evaluate this final bolus of academic effort by our students. They too deserve a word of thanks and extra support.

Here are a few excerpts from a website that came to my attention – College-Finals-From-Hell:

BIOLOGY – Create life. Estimate the differences in subsequent human culture if this form of life had developed 500 million years earlier, with special attention to its probable effect on the English parliamentary system. Prove your thesis.

SOCIOLOGY – Estimate the sociological problems which might accompany the end of the world. Construct an experiment to test your theory.

EPISTEMOLOGY – Take a position for or against truth. Prove the validity of your position.

PHYSICS – Explain the nature of matter. Include in your answer an evaluation of the impact of the development of mathematics on science.

PHILOSOPHY – Sketch the development of human thought; estimate its significance. Compare with the development of any other kind of thought.

GENERAL KNOWLEDGE – Describe in detail. Be objective and specific.

MEDICINE – You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of Scotch. Remove your appendix. Do not suture until your work has been inspected. You have 15 minutes.

Best wishes,


Tim White, Chancellor

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If you like the sound of holiday carols, ‘tis the season for entertainment. Tonight at 8 p.m. in the University Theater UCR’s Highlander Concert Band will join with Brassworks for a holiday concert.

Find out what else is going on at UC Riverside: http://www.ucr.edu/happenings/

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