Students’ Union Education Vice-President James Williamson has spoken of how he received death threats in the aftermath of the decision to cancel the remaining exams from December 21st onwards due to heavy snow and dangerous transport conditions.
Williamson received a backlash from students who were angry at the decision taken. Williamson told The University Observer: “I even got a few death threats as well saying that I shouldn’t have cancelled them; that I shouldn’t have been in favour of cancelling the exams. I got close to 500 emails again saying that I’d ruined people’s Christmas.”
Having received in the region of 800 emails requesting cancellation on the evening of December 20th, Williamson called Registrar Dr Philip Nolan and informed him that the Students’ Union was wholly in support of cancellation. This decision was agreed upon in meeting between Dr Nolan, Head of Registry, Mr Kevin Griffin, and the Head of Assessment, Ms Jill O’ Mahoney, to postpone the remainder of the exams until after Christmas.
The exam postponement was not the first time that the academic calendar had been hit by the bad weather. In the first week of December, UCD was shut down for over four days due to unusually heavy levels of snow and treacherous driving conditions, as well as the cancellation of many major transport routes. An email circulated on the morning of Wednesday, December 1st specified that all buildings were to close at 12pm and that the campus should be evacuated by 2pm.
Williamson explained that the decision was taken to create a contingency plan for the upcoming exams, in the case that they might be forced into cancellation: “When it snowed first, in late November, around that time that there were a few meetings held to discuss the possibility of having a contingency plan in place for exams.” Williamson also explained that the selected dates were necessary, as any further delay in rescheduling would result in the academic calendar being completely in disarray.
A small number of students missed or arrived late to exams on the morning of December 21st, but the number began to gradually increase as the day went on and the weather failed to improve.
Williamson spoke of how he worked to answer students individually when the drama ensued: “By the end of the night I had about 800 emails and I stayed up all night to answer all emails. They were all emails saying I had to cancel the exams.”
Despite the backlash that followed, Williamson stands firm by his decision: “It’s very clear in my mind that you couldn’t ask a student to go to an exam in those weather conditions so I was 100 per cent in favour of cancelling them.”