Rescheduling of Schol exams comes under fire

Trinity has come under fire from students and staff after disruption to the Foundation Scholarship examinations. “Adverse weather conditions” meant the exams, which were meant to commence Monday 11 January last, were postponed until later that week. Students undertaking Schols were notified of the timetable change the day before exams were due to take place, despite previous notifications that exams would proceed as planned.
Criticism over College’s decision lay with the timetabling of rescheduled exams, which left students with up to three exams in one day. The students themselves were notified of the change of plans on 10 January, less than 24 hours before the exams were due to commence. This contradicts a previous notification issued two days before, confirming that all exams would take place as scheduled.
Dr Donal O’Donovan, Head of the Maths Department, has been outspoken on his views of the disruption. In an email to his students O’Donovan acknowledged that those taking the Mathematics Foundation Scholarship examinations faced a “difficult task” because of the timetable change. The revised exam dates meant Monday’s exam was deferred to the Friday afternoon, even though they already had an exam on the Friday morning. This left prospective Mathematics scholars with two thirds of their overall examinations in one day.
Professor Richard Timoney, Associate Professor in the Mathematics Department, objected strongly to the new timetable scheduling, but to no avail. Timoney says the reallocation of the exams was “unfortunate and not the best way it could have been done”. According to O’Donovan, Timony felt there was no need to alter the schedule. Timony says there was the obvious option of putting exams scheduled for the Monday on the following Saturday that week. Alternatively, he suggested Monday 18 January, which was implemented in other courses. When he raised the matter with the Examinations Office on the morning of Tuesday 12 January, he was told that the decision had already been made and his solutions were deemed “impossible”.
“It is clear that College did not have proper contingency plans in place”, says O’Donovan, higlighting the lack of anticipatory action displayed by the College. In spite of O’Donovan’s objections, the Examinations Office maintain that there was a contingency plan in place. The rest of the examination schedule went ahead as planned. O’Donovan notified his students that the “examiners will bear in mind the difficulties students faced” by the disruption.
College claims the disruption was “in view of the deteriorating weather conditions and snowfall”. Furthermore, timetables for the rescheduled exams were posted on the Trinity website by the close of business on Monday January 11, which all prospective Scholars were notified of. The General Regulations of the College state that, “the College reserves the right to alter the published time and date of an examination in exceptional circumstances”, a clause which the College saw fit to utilise.
The extreme weather conditions over the Christmas break affected Library opening hours, as well as the Schol exams. The library was forced to curtail opening hours in the days approaching the exams. On the Saturday before examinations all Library services shut at 1pm, and remained closed throughout Sunday.
A Library representative says the staff experienced extreme difficulties in accessing the college due to the deteriorating weather condition, and that closure was an inevitability. Front Arch was also closed because of hazardous icy conditions on the cobblestones, for health and safety reasons.