College revoked decision to not allow student to sit Schols two days before exams began

Maeve Murphy Quinlan was informed in November that she was not eligible to sit the exams due to a clerical error in her application

NEWSCollege administration has come under scrutiny recently following a case where a second year student was informed that she was eligible to sit the Foundation Scholarship Exams (Schols) less than three days before they were due to start.

Maeve Murphy Quinlan, a science student due to sit the maths and geology Schols exams, had been informed in November that she was not eligible to take the exams due to a clerical error in her application. However, she continued to argue her case, and, following extensive email correspondence with the Academic Registry, Murphy Quinlan was informed on the evening of January 8 that she was able to sit the examinations starting on January 11.

The error was due to a delay in payments being processed by the Academic Registry. In late October, Murphy Quinlan noticed a fee of over €1000 euro charged to her college account that matched a payment made by her the previous year relating to accommodation. This apparent outstanding payment prevented her from paying the sports centre charge of €128, which in turn prevented her from being fully registered – a requirement for sitting Schols.

Murphy Quinlan contacted the Academic Registry in October notifying them of the problem and again a month later, as the deadline for Schols applications was November 16. Despite having already submitted her application before this deadline, she had not received any confirmation of it.

The outstanding payment was cleared without explanation on November 17, leaving Murphy Quinlan to gather the outstanding fee of €128. However, she was unable pay this money straight away due to the fact that her father had recently been made unemployed and her family was facing financial difficulties.

She paid the fee a couple of days after November 16. Despite this, Murphy Quinlan received an email around the same time claiming that she was not eligible to sit Schols as she had not submitted her application on time.

Over the course of December, College repeatedly confirmed that she could not sit Schols, despite the intervention of her tutor, Professor Peter Coxon, on her behalf. On January 4, a final email definitively stated she would not be allowed to sit the exams.

In a last ditch effort to provide a resolution, Murphy Quinlan’s father contacted the Senior Tutor’s office. Following a series of emails and calls over the course of a week, she finally received an email from the Senior Lecturer’s office, on the evening of Friday January 8, stating that she could now sit the Schols exams, which were due to start in less than three days, on Monday 11.

Speaking to Trinity News, Murphy Quinlan explained how the situation had adversely affected her mental health: “The guilt, stress, and emotional toll that the past term, and Christmas break, took on me is something no student should have to experience. First being told definitively, on multiple occasions, that I couldn’t sit the exams, and that I was to blame, (then) subsequently being told I could – two days before said exams started – left me in a vulnerable position, feeling confused, guilty, and angry… I feel that Trinity needs to take the mental health of its students into account when dealing with complaints like this.”

Murphy Quinlan also voiced her opinion that College administration needs to be improved significantly: “They saw me as a student number, not as a person. I was offered no initial apology for the fee issue, and no apology for the subsequent mess… I’ll start the new term drained, and rather disillusioned with the great and prestigious Trinity that only cares for the fees its wealthy students offer up. It’s taken me this long to wrap my head around the issue, and I am not sure what to look for in terms of compensation.”

Murphy Quinlan did not accept the offer to sit the examinations at such short notice. She has now inquired about the possibility of sitting the Scholarship exams next year but has so far received no response from College.

Schols are a set of academically rigorous exams that take place in the week before College resumes after Christmas break. The prestigious award aims to highlight excellence in the candidate’s subject. Successful candidates, those who achieve a first in the majority of papers taken and who do not fall below 65% in any paper, enjoy significant benefits, including Commons free of charge, rooms free of charge and fee remission for up to five years.

College did not give comment about the case when contacted.

Niamh Lynch

Niamh was Editor of the 65th volume of Trinity News. She is a History and Politics graduate.