UCD has extended the end of trimester exams by one week in order to give students “the best spread of assessments as possible” and to allow “more time to prepare and complete assessments.” A number of assessments will also be altered in order to reflect the position students currently find themselves in. UCD have now hinted that assessments may be graded easier, saying that “all results will be considered and reviewed taking account of these challenging circumstances.” The move comes in response to widespread calls from students to alleviate pressure on online assessment.
Pressure has mounted in recent days for UCD management to adopt a ‘No-Detriment’ policy for the remainder of the trimester as thousands of students back calls for academic leniency amid the COVID-19 crisis. The policy takes into account students’ circumstances and allows them to only improve their GPA once their exams are passed.
UCD’s Registrar and Deputy President Prof. Mark Rogers emailed students today informing them of the new measures in place. Although not directly addressing the calls for a ‘No-Detriment’ policy, Rogers said: “I want to assure you that the challenging and stressful circumstances you are facing are being taken into account in relation to your assessments and examinations. […] We have the necessary supports and protocols in place to ensure that anyone who feels that their performance in any assessment was negatively impacted, can have this taken into account.”
The news comes as a large blow to the thousands of students hoping for the implementation of a ‘No-Detriment’ policy in UCD. It remains to be seen whether existing supports will provide adequate help for students during the upcoming assessment period.
The Deputy President called on students to reach out if they are experiencing difficulties, saying: “I recognise that those of you with additional needs face extra challenges in a battle that can seem at times to be uphill. […] We are here and most anxious to help.”
Currently, 5,500 people have signed an online petition to implement the policy in UCD, with 3,700 joining a Facebook group to “coordinate collective action in pursuit of a ‘no-detriment’ assessment policy” in UCD.
Admin of the Facebook group, Conor Nolan, responded to the Deputy President’s email, calling on students to “ramp up our efforts, particularly with regards emailing.” In a statement online, Nolan said: “This is why we must continue to bombard his office with emails. We must show UCD that we are not going to take the ignoring of our position lying down. We are going to continue to fight for this policy because it is what is best for all students who are struggling across the country.”
UCD Students’ Union (SU) President Joanna Siewierska has said the SU is “requesting that this issue be discussed by the Academic Council Executive Committee, and we are reaching out to other senior academics and management members about it.” The SU President published a video in recent days I which she outlined her support for the ‘No-Detriment’ policy.
A number of TD’s have expressed solidarity with the students’ calls, including representatives from Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael. The Social Democrats have called for a country-wide ‘No-Detriment’ policy to be introduced.
UCD students have been learning digitally since March 23rd through online learning system ‘Brightspace’. Lectures are being broadcasted live via ‘Zoom’ as well as being uploaded as podcasts for students.
The university has yet to respond to requests for comment on widespread calls for a “No-Detriment” policy in UCD.
Conor Capplis – Editor