Wed, 17th Nov, 2021 (17/11/21)
TCDSU Statement on Upcoming Assessments & Mitigation Measures
Throughout the semester, TCDSU has consistently asked for clarification on what end of term assess-ments will look like. We are disappointed to see that upon the release of exam timetables last Friday 12/11/2021, students have still not received this clarification from Trinity. Students need clear com-munication 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. In light of rising COVID cases and recent reports that up to 60% of those hospitalized by COVID are vaccinated, students are understandably worried about unforeseen changes to upcoming assessments and a lack of mitigation measures.
Following the completion of exams, many students will be returning to their family homes across the country and internationally. There is a serious potential public health risk posed by students unnecessarily attending exam centres. TCDSU has consistently lobbied for the introduction of more nontraditional forms of assessment such as take home and open book exams. Trinity students have spent the best part of the last 18 months learning and being assessed online. These online forms of assessment can include broader assessment types and are often more accessible for students with disabilities, students with living with those who are high-risk, as well as students with caring responsibilities.
Over the past number of weeks, I have written to the Senior Lecturer (Dean of Undergraduate Studies) asking the following questions about the examinations session this semester, and how it might impact students.
I have asked what the protocol is for students scheduled to sit in-person exams who test positive for COVID or are deemed a close contact by the HSE in the days leading up to their in-person exams. In these instances, I have been assured that students will be instructed to defer these exams to a later sitting.
I have asked that if students must defer exams that they be provided with clarification on when the deferred sitting will take place. While it might be most convenient for Trinity to schedule deferred semester one exams during the August reassessment session, this is often not ideal for students. Receiving results in late August / September causes significant problems for certain cohorts of students, such as those applying for Erasmus & international exchanges, summer internships, and postgraduate studies.
As we see further restrictions introduced across the country, Trinity needs to ensure that measures are taken to avoid unnecessary disturbances to the assessment period, while protecting both its staff and its students.
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. Ultimately, these measures allow students and staff to comply with the prevailing public health guidelines. 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. Last year, less than 10% of students elect ed to avail of the automatic right to defer assessment. Any concern that the reinstatement of such mitigating measures would be abused is deeply unfounded.
At today’s (17/11/21) meeting of the Continuity of Student Learning and Activities working group (COL-SAG), the Senior Lecturer tabled a memo regarding contingency plans for assessment. These plans included the potential reintroduction of the automatic right to deferral, a deferral session that isn’t in August, and a full scale return to online exams, should the government impose a nationwide lock-down.
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. 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. It should never be viewed as being a ‘pity to have to defer’ exams in the middle of a pandemic. Trinity owes it to their students to tell them what provisions are being put in place to support them during exams, and they must do this imminently. Mitigation measures must be reinstated and students must be granted the automatic right to deferral. Students whose exams fall during the contingency dates for exams must have their coursework deadlines adjusted appropriately to prevent further disadvantage.
These decisions must be made and communicated to students imminently. All students should feel fit to sit their exams this winter. No student should be disadvantaged by circumstances beyond their control. Trinity must implement mitigation measures now.
BEV GENOCKEY, EDUCATION OFFICER
ON BEHALF OF THE TCDSU SABBATICAL TEAM 2021/2022