by Samantha Calthrop
A petition calling for UCC to mitigate the upcoming Summer exam results has been circulating on social media, having gained almost 5000 signatures as of April 3rd. Launched by UCC student Conall Williamson, it calls upon UCC to introduce measures that prevent any student from being having their grades lowered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since the university ceased all in-person operations on March 13th, a large proportion of students are now bereft of a suitable working environment, WiFi, laptops, computers and even office equipment,” the statement on the petition’s Change.org page reads, “Some students are exposed to toxic living conditions, without proper access to a safe place to do assessment in, or exposed to and caring for sick family members.
“We, the students of UCC are asking the university to implement a “no detriment” system, in a similar manner to those being deployed across the universities of the United Kingdom, for example Exeter, Southampton, and Edinburgh.”
The universities in question have “frozen” the marks obtained leading up to the crisis. The University of Exeter has ensured that grades cannot drop lower than they were up to the 15th of March as a result of work submitted during the crisis. Currently, UCC will be operating largely as normal, with assignments and exams moved online.
On the 31st of March, UCC released its “No Academic Disadvantage” plan, which offers free exam deferrals and uncapped resits for students who have been affected by the pandemic. An online application process for these is to be announced shortly.
A statement on the UCC website reads, “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis. Students who complete their examinations will have their marks reviewed in the normal way, and all examination marks will be reviewed in light of these exceptional circumstances.”
Petition manager Conall Williamson praised this decision, but stated that UCC needed to do more, pointing to other universities with more accommodating procedures. “While a positive first step, this does not go far enough, and still disadvantages students who have had their studies disrupted. The opportunity to sit an uncapped repeat will doubtless be comforting to students. However, this has now widened the gap between those who are disadvantaged and those who are not,” he wrote, “Students who have the luxury of a stable internet connection, a good laptop, a quiet home and a safe environment in which to do the exams are now afforded two opportunities to boost their grade, whereas someone without access to these facilities must simply defer.
“This measure does not assuage the concerns of final year students who have pending offers for jobs or masters that are contingent on their grades. In many cases, repeats are not an option for these students.”
UCC Students are also making their feelings known as they call for academic pressures to be lightened. “Some students are in emergency or temporary accommodation and do not have access to essential study equipment. We are also trying to protect ourselves and our family from a global pandemic,” reads one comment on the petition’s page.
“I don’t believe it is fair to continue with assessments that may harm your overall grades if the coursework and lab work was not possible to complete,” reads another, “Many students do not have environments conducive to study and others have children or family to care for, not to mention those who work in essential services and are in demand more than ever to cover more work hours. All motivation has gone out the window for those who work in healthcare like myself as I’m needed elsewhere and feel online assessments and college work are dragging me away from where I’m needed now.”
When contacted over the weekend by the Express a statement from the SU read: “We are aware of the petition and Ben has been in touch with its creator to hear their specific issues and to discuss ideas and explore all possible avenues for solving the problems being brought forward. We have been in contact with the Students’ Guild in Exeter to discuss their specific ‘No Detriment” Policy and have been in conversations with the USI and a number of other Students’ Union’s in the country about how best to approach the proposals put forward by students taking into account the regulations and oversight surrounding University examinations. This is an issue being faced by all third-level education students and greater national guidance and intervention is likely necessary to find a sufficient resolution.”
The petition can be viewed using the following link: https://www.change.org/p/university-college-cork-no-detriment-policy-for-university-college-cork.