Students express concerns over “freezing” conditions in RDS exam hall

Speaking to Trinity News this evening, students said they chose to leave exams early due to cold conditions in the RDS

Students are expressing concern over temperatures in the RDS, with exams taking place this week. 

Exams in RDS Simmonscourt began today, and are expected to conclude on Friday, December 16. 

Speaking to Trinity News, one student sitting a chemistry exam said: “I just want to say it was [a] very bad experience … it was so, so, so cold.” 

“I wore lots of clothes, but after 15 minutes I was shaking so much, my hands were frozen and I could not focus on the exam,” they continued. 

“It was the first time in my life that I [left] the exam early as I felt I can’t take the cold anymore,” they added. “I am really not exaggerating. I was freezing and the only thing in my head was just to leave the exam and go out.”

This morning, Met Éireann issued a status orange warning for most counties from noon until midnight as cold conditions continue. 

A cold spell across the country began this weekend, with temperatures reaching as low as -5 degrees Celsius in some areas in Dublin. 

Met Eireann has forecast that certain areas around the country may experience temperatures of up to -10 degrees Celsius this week. 

Another student said: “I’ve had my first exam this morning in the RDS. It was -2/-3 degrees in the morning. I was layered up but wasn’t prepared for how cold the venue would be.” 

“I wore gloves and had to keep them on as my hands were getting too cold and sore to write. I, along with others around me, were visibly shaking from the cold from sitting in a large open area for 3 hours,” they continued. “As a first glimpse into how Trinity approaches student health and safety it was stressful and disappointing to see them dismiss our concerns and allow the exams to go ahead in the RDS.”

“It was also extremely disorganised, many people received their exam 40 minutes late and many others received the incorrect answer sheets.”

The student also commented on Trinity College Dublin’s Students Union (TCDSU) at the venue: “Although the SU were amazing and thoughtful and it’s totally not on them and the treat was appreciated, the lollipops being handed out at the end felt like a slap in the face and that we were being treated like children by Trinity.”

The student commended transport being organised from Trinity Hall (Halls): “One good note was Trinity Halls organising direct buses this week to the RDS in the mornings. This was an absolute saviour and definitely reduced stress on a major factor for the exams.”

A first year student also told Trinity News that they found the cold conditions “nearly impossible to focus under, even with multiple layers on”. 

“I found myself rushing to finish my exam just so I could go and warm up,” they added. “I understand that it’s difficult to heat an area of that size, but little to no heating in December was not what I expected.”

One student explained the hazardous conditions: “I’ve sat my first exam on Monday morning and the conditions were appalling. As I’m studying for tomorrow’s exam, I feel as if I’m becoming sick and fatigued from how cold it was during my exam.”

“There was no difference in temperature when I was sitting in the hall and when I was outside afterwards (in which at that time it was around negative 1 degrees),” they added. “Most of the time my hands were in my pockets to protect them from being frozen and I was mostly rushing to be able to leave and get back into the heat.”

“I feel as if these conditions are hindering the grade I deserve from the commitment I’ve put into the module over the semester, and radiators or even a warning could’ve been nice to have beforehand.” 

A first year law student told Trinity News: “I wore two pairs of socks and four layers on top and was freezing.” 

“I don’t think there’s any way it’s 16 degrees Celsius, which is the recommendation,” they continued. “It’s mandatory off campus exams but no transport is provided to the exam venue from, say, Nassau Street, meaning students have to walk up from the dart/bus in below freezing conditions.” 

“Exam invigilators were in parkas, scarves, hats and puffer coats (and one in earmuffs).” 

“My exam was one hour long but it cannot be safe to subject students to 2-3 hour long exams in those conditions,” they added. 

They continued: “I would advise as many layers as possible. There’s no cloakroom so students can put spare clothes in the bin bag under the desk.” 

“Most of my friends wore leggings and tracksuits but I think it’s ridiculous that even had to be done,” they concluded. 

Another student said: “The RDS exam hall was unacceptable in my opinion. While the weather was -2 degrees in December and the hall was not heated, I cannot believe that we had to sit a 3-hour-long exam and be concentrated.” 

“A lot of my peers and I included left the exam early because our hands were freezing,” they added. “I hope this problem will be solved for later exams.”

One student added concerns about road conditions for early exams: “I have to get up at 7am tomorrow morning, drive to the DART station (≈25 mins) in sub zero temperatures and on what is planned to be the worst day weather wise of these harsh temperatures, all to make one exam at 9:30-11 where the rest of my exams have been online in political science.” 

“I’m worried that the roads will not have been gritted from where I’m driving, and that black ice will still be on the roads as it will be dark.”

László Molnárfi, SSP Convenor, said: “I have heard that temperatures in the RDS, due to the status orange weather conditions, are very cold, affecting exam performance. Students arrive at 9:30 am at sub-zero temperatures to sit exams in a freezing hall. This is unacceptable.”  

Molnárfi added: “I have liaised with my School as Convenor asking them to talk to the Senior Lecturer, who has to take responsibility for this and ensure proper temperatures for students who are taking exams in the RDS.” 

“The necessity for proper temperatures is reflected in law too. According to Regulation 7 of The HSA’s Guide to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work 2007, sedentary office work must maintain a minimum temperature of 17.5° C,” he continued. 

Under Irish health and safety legislation the range of temperature that is considered acceptable for indoor workers goes from 16°C to 17.5°C. The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 covers the issue of minimum temperatures in the workplace. 

In-person exams are held every year in Simmons Court. Although the RDS is not a workplace for students, it would be considered a workplace for exam invigilators. 

One student said that it is “ridiculous that we are being dragged into the RDS in [the] middle of [a] weather alert for sub zero temperatures and possible snow”. 

“Last time I did an exam, there it was Baltic conditions and not conducive to best performance,” they added 

“Goldsmith hall is also a problem; it was like a  sauna last week when I sat an exam there. An alert message kept flashing in the hall saying ‘dangerous temperatures’,” they continued. “[College] needs to heed these conditions and switch to online exams.”

Speaking to Trinity News on Tuesday afternoon, December 13, a College spokesperson said: “We very much regret that students found the conditions so cold. Staff responded as quickly as they could to rectify the situation.”

“Normally the heating is turned on to full power before an exam starts and turned down during an exam to minimise noise,” the statement continued. “Yesterday, because of the extreme outside weather, the inside heat level did not hold. The RDS was asked to turn the heat on to full power and it was kept at this level during exams.”

“We have arranged for this to happen again today and currently the temperature is warm in the exam hall and waiting area.”

“We are keeping a close eye on the temperature and will continue to do so all week,” the statement concluded.

Additional reporting by Ellen Kenny.

This article was updated at 6:55pm on Tuesday, December 13, to include a statement from a College spokesperson.

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the Editor-in-Chief of the 69th volume Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister student of English Literature and Philosophy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.