Dominic Watters 0

A Request for UCL to change their current stance on assessments

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People may have different opinions on this, but I think the stance UCL is taking on exams so far isn’t appropriate for the situation. I know its a new challenge for them, but it seems at the moment that exams will go on in a way as similar to normal as possible. We’ve been told we won't be disadvantaged, but also not advantaged. Considering we’ve already missed so much teaching this year. Then for the last bit of teaching, and all of revision, we have a pandemic. Asking us to carry on working as normal seems like madness. If the university isn't going to provide better measures for us assessment wise, the situation is most definitely going to disadvantage us. If it may not disadvantage you in particular, please think about all the other people that it might. The current stance UCL has, to me seems to neglect both fairness, and their students' mental and physical health as priorities. Most likely, the situation is going to get much worse and i really think instead of having to prioritise work, we should be given space to look after ourselves and older people in our communities. I’m putting this out here to see if other people agree that we should have more appropriate and flexible style assessments that give us this additional space. I think it's important to say something before decisions get emailed out.

The issues at hand are described in more detail below

  1. A high volume of students are dealing with family strife - unable to return home or being forced to. Travel is dangerous. The displacement caused by sudden uprooting is mentally and physically draining.
  2. The pandemic is having a drastic effect on the economy. Families may come under financial hardship and students may be unable to pay their rent or afford their shopping.
  3. Many students that have gone home are in different time zones and may not be able to attend online classes or sit exams
  4. Not everyone has access to reliable internet, computers or suitable work environments at home.
  5. It may turn out that many people are personally affected by loved ones catching the virus, some of these likely to be quite serious cases. It is immoral to expect students to revise in such a scenario
  6. As younger, and therefore mostly less vulnerable people, many might want to take up the responsibility of helping the groups in our community for whom the virus is likely to affect most. For example, many old people are moving into self isolation and need help with getting shopping and prescriptions. We are less able to provide such support under UCLs current stance on exams.This point is especially necessary as many of the support networks these communities rely on become more fragile.
  7. Due to strikes, we will have missed many weeks of taught classes, 2 of which will be online. We are missing over half of an entire semester.
  8. Across campus, many buildings are likely to be close due to the virus.
  9. As material in university can be incredibly challenging, tutorials, seminars and in-person contact hours are VITAL to understanding our material.
  10. Further, personal engagement is essential to most people with learning difficulties.
  11. With less taught material, we are unable to write engaged and informed essays. In some cases, there is barely any material eligible for examination.
  12. Many of our assessments will not be marked before our exams and final essay deadlines. This feedback is critical to good performance in final assessments.
  13. Even if the Library remains open, it is a dangerous place to be for immunocompromised people. It is also difficult to be on campus or in the library with the anxiety caused by the virus. Health officials advise all people to engage in social distancing and self-isolation if sick. Going to the library is outside of that recommendation.
  14. Debilitating anxiety prevents people from doing their coursework, many people are experiencing this as their personal situations become more strenuous and uncertain.
  15. Additionally, many East and Southeast Asian students have been burdened by increased racism and xenophobia in the wake of the virus.
  16. Students with existing mental health issues are overburdened by the stress of the virus, lack of support and contact hours.
  17. In lieu of full cancellations, some students’ degrees are dependent upon examinations - including many STEM students. However, keep in mind that not everyone has a reliable internet connection or access to a home computer, they should have the option to take their mark as is.
  18. Mature students and carers have additional responsibilities that impact their ability to complete their work.

We do not believe that dissertations should be cancelled, as it is a continuation of the studies we have been doing since last semester and is a meaningful part of our degrees. We do believe that amendments must be made, based on the following facts:

  1. Students are cut off from their supervisors - students should receive revised and extended deadlines for dissertation submission.
  2. Students whose dissertations rely on access to physical resources - labs, testing equipment, software and books - should receive further leniency, amendments and extensions.
  3. Further guidelines should be provided on how to write project reports for students undergoing research projects who have only been able to acquire half as much data as they should have.

As a final plea, we urge you to consider the financial implications the strikes coupled by this virus has on your students. We ask that you consider refunding each student the equivalent amount of at least 4 weeks tuition (£3,036.37 for international students), based on the following facts:

  1. Students forced to return home and repatriate are incurring even higher costs.
  2. We were not taught for 5 weeks straight and endured strikes last semester and in fall of 2019 as well.
  3. We did not enroll at this University to take online classes.
  4. Our access to resources (academic and supportive) has been denied, either explicitly through the occupation and closed schools or implicitly through anxiety due to the virus. This is also what our tuition covers.

(some these were taken from a similar university of Edinburgh petition)

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