Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) have called on College to reinstate mitigation measures and clarify its contingency plans to students.
In a press release published this evening, Education Officer Bev Genockey said that TCDSU was “disappointed” that students have not received clarification on what end of term assessments will look like.
Genockey continued: ”Students need clear communication about the supports that are available to them during the exam period, and the College’s contingency plans in light of concerning increases in COVID-19 case numbers.”
The education officer added that “students are understandably worried about unforeseen changes to upcoming assessments and a lack of mitigation measures”.
She continued: “There is a serious potential public health risk posed by students unnecessarily attending exam centres.”
Genockey said: “TCDSU has consistently lobbied for the introduction of more non-traditional forms of assessment such as take home and open book exams,” noting these forms of assessment are “often more accessible” for a variety of students.
The education officer said that she had written to the Senior Lecturer for clarity about the incoming exam season. According to Genockey, the Senior Lecturer confirmed that students scheduled to sit in-person exams who test positive for Covid-19 or are deemed a close contact by the HSE “will be instructed to defer these exams to a later sitting”.
Genockey explained that she had asked for clarification regarding the deferred sitting, saying that the August reassessment period often “causes significant problems” for students.
In an email sent to students on Friday, College explained that those who missed their assessments through contracting Covid-19 would have to defer to the supplemental period during the summer.
The email said: “Assessments and exams are coming, and with increasing cases of Covid-19 infections and illness, please take all possible steps to remain healthy and well in the next weeks.”
“It would be a pity to miss assessments and defer to the summer.”
“Think about how you are socialising and try to reduce your contacts by half, in line with Public Health Advice”, it added.
In the press release, Genockey announced: “TCDSU is calling on Trinity to reinstate the mitigating measures that existed during previous exam sessions during the pandemic.”
“These measures protect students who, for a variety of reasons, cannot complete their exams under the current circumstance,” Genockey said.
“The re-implementation of such measures would be a significant statement from College: one that states that not only do they value the academic success of students, but their welfare, and the welfare of those closest to them.”
Genockey added: “Any concern that the reinstatement of such mitigating measures would be abused is deeply unfounded,” explaining that less than 10% of students used the automatic right to defer last year.
At a meeting of the Continuity of Student Learning and Activities working group (COLSAG) today, Genockey said that the Senior Lecturer tabled a memo regarding contingency plans for assessment. This included the reintroduction of the automatic right to deferral, a supplemental period that does not take place in August, and a complete return to online exams in the event that Government impose a national lockdown.
Genockey said: “Although this memo was a step in the right direction, these plans should have been discussed a long time ago. Students deserve to know what plans are in place for assessment.”
The officer criticised College for the lack of communication regarding the upcoming assessment period, saying: “We are currently three weeks away from the start of assessment and the only communication students have had with regard to exams has been patronising remarks made in last week’s college-wide covid communication.”
In addition to calling on College to tell students the provisions being put in place and to reinstate the mitigation measures, Genockey said that students whose exams fall during the contingency dates for exams “must have their coursework deadlines adjusted appropriately to prevent further disadvantage”.
On Saturday, Trinity News asked College for clarity regarding the reimplementation of the Covid-19 mitigation measures and a contingency plan in the event that in-person examinations could not go ahead. College said it will comment officially on the issue by the end of the week.
Speaking to Trinity News, senior sophister Engineering student Oisín Fullam-Smith said: “it feels like Trinity put these exams on when the cases weren’t as insane and refused to have a backup plan.”
Fullam-Smith added that they have four exams scheduled to take place in the RDS, saying: “I don’t know if I’ll be able to do my best in them and try not to catch Covid.”
Another student told Trinity News: “The closed book in-person exams being held in Christmas gives little towards actual learning, and more so just memorising facts.”
“A lot of us who commute to college are already at a disadvantage, and having to do so for an exam that could affect our future is a lot to bear,” they added.
Speaking of the lack of information regarding mitigation measures and deferral, the student said: “It’s as if [College] aren’t at all prepared to handle all the possible deferrals and changes that could arise in the next few weeks, even months at this point.”
“A complete lack of preparation and foresight on their part,” they concluded.