Weathering the storm

 
 

Despite some students’ protests, UCD dealt efficiently for the most part with the snow-induced chaos during exam time, writes Katie Hughes

The cancellation of the last four timetabled end-of-semester exams in December left many students relieved to see Christmas early and others annoyed at the prospect of books remaining open over the holiday period.

The university, in cooperation with the Students’ Union, was faced with an incredibly tough decision that Students’ Union Education Vice-President James Williamson described as “50/50” in terms of those students who wished for the exams to be cancelled and those who wished them to be held as scheduled. Either way, a backlash occurred, and it seems that credit is not being provided for the situation presented to those in charge.

For students who opted to go back home to study for exams and who had major transportation issues with the snow, the cancellation of exams was a welcome call. Treacherous weather conditions lessened the chances of students arriving at the exam hall on time and the night freezes resulted in roads covered in black ice that, in conjunction with cancelled transportation routes, delayed their arrival home by hours.

Students were kept informed with updates on the UCD website, though complaints were heard that these updates were not frequent enough, resulting in students being unsure as to whether or not they should leave and face hours of travel for an exam.

Not all students who live in Dublin were overjoyed at the cancellations. They were, on the contrary, rather unimpressed at the postponement of exams which they would not have had too much trouble attending.

Perhaps students who were able to attend their exam on Tuesday evening or Wednesday should have been allowed to do so with the remaining students being dealt with individually, or being asked to re-sit the exam at a later date. Though a good suggestion in theory, the splitting up of classes like this may not have ultimately been the best idea, with the notion of some exam papers posing more difficulty than others being an obvious issue.

To its credit, UCD has catered for students who, with extreme difficulty in some cases, sat exams on Monday 20th at 6pm and at any time on Tuesday. These students “will be viewed as having taken that examination under difficult circumstances” and will not be required to complete an extenuating circumstances form, unless they have other circumstances which need to be brought to attention. Additionally, lists of people who were late to exams on those days due to appalling weather conditions will be made available to Heads of Schools and Programme Boards.

A further matter of annoyance among students is the rescheduled dates for the exams. As a result of the exam times being mirrored on the originals, students are being asked to miss lectures, seminars and tutorials to sit their exams. For many students, this is a major blow and an unsettling way to start off a semester.

Thinking that they had a three-week break ahead of them after the last day of exams, many students had plans to be out of the country for a proportion of the Christmas break. Taking this vacation away would have resulted in less time to prepare for exams, not to mention the prospect of not having planned to return until after the re-scheduled exam dates. However, the flip side of this situation is that the second semester can begin in the week is it scheduled to start and the academic calendar will not be majorly disrupted by the rescheduling.

The university must also be credited for accommodating students going abroad or on work placements for the second semester. However, it would have been better to schedule the exams at a time when students did not have classes – perhaps over the course of two consecutive Saturdays or over one weekend.

The postponement of exams has had a knock-on effect for release date of results. Provisional results will now be available from 5pm on February 4th and final results will be announced on February 24th.

It is not unreasonable to argue that UCD, under the relatively difficult circumstances, handled the situation reasonably well, though exams could arguably have been postponed at a slightly earlier date than they were, given that students’ health and safety was at risk on account of the extremely icy roads.

There are many pros and cons to the argument, yet as noted by Williamson, when faced with the prospect of putting students’ lives in danger, rescheduling exams for January is a minor price to pay and both Williamson and the staff involved in the cancellation deserve credit for acknowledging that.

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