Caucus vote gives chemistry students free pass on midterms

DES MOINES, IA - NOVEMBER 14:  A supporter takes a selfie with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) after a watch party for the second Democratic presidential debate November 14, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Sanders joined Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley in the party's second presidential debate.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Story highlights

  • Colorado's caucuses are set to start at the same time UC-Boulder chemistry midterms
  • The department is allowing students to skip out -- provided they turn in photo evidence of their caucusing

(CNN)Pics or it didn't happen.

More than a thousand University of Colorado chemistry students are being offered a free pass from Tuesday night's scheduled midterm exams -- with one condition: They must turn out to a caucus, then turn in a selfie to prove it.
"Most people think it's a novel way to accommodate allowing students to be a part of the political process, which I'm very glad that they are," the chemistry department chair, Carl Koval, told CNN.
    The tests, like the caucuses, are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. local time, creating a conflict flagged to the department by a pro-Bernie Sanders student group. But moving the test date, which can be set as much as a year in advance to accommodate the heavy enrollment, Koval said, was not a viable option.
    "We let students miss exams all the time for what are called 'reasons beyond their control,'" he explained, saying the department decided instead to treat Super Tuesday like a religious holiday or medical emergency.
    But there was still one hiccup. How, instructors asked, could they be sure the students would keep up their end of the bargain?
    "I couldn't think of any way," Koval recalled, "and almost in jest I just said, 'Get them to go there and take a selfie of themselves at the caucus.'"
    From there, he said, "the whole idea just sort of took on a life of its own. I think because students like to take selfies, young people like to take selfies, the idea of being able to document an excused absence by taking a selfie at a caucus, it just sounded like an interesting thing."
    Koval told CNN he doesn't know how many students plan to make use of the offer, which was first reported by the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder.
    Students who choose to caucus will not be asked to arrange a make-up date, but instead agree to have their final exams weighted more heavily in their final grades.
    The instructors will forward the caucus selfies to Koval, who doesn't anticipate rejecting many requests.
    "If we see beer bottles in the background, you know, we're not going to accept that," he said with a laugh.