UTSC students are using an online forum to voice their dissent over a recent decision of the Academic Committee to start scheduling final exams on Sundays.
Due to a recent increase in student enrolment and a loss of space suitable for exams, the college decided it was their only option on October 11.
“We are short of space. We all know that. Additionally, we have been building better lecture halls, [and] the thing is that good lecture halls actually make bad examination rooms, and vice versa,” said Jeff Rybak, the Scarborough Campus Student Union’s vice president of academics, on the forum.
Several options were debated by the Board of Directors, including increasing the number of exam slots per day from three to four or filling exam rooms to capacity. But according to Rybak the only two feasible options were to extend exam days to include Sundays, or extend the academic calendar.
That would have meant starting classes earlier in September, a shorter reading week, or having fewer days between the last day of classes and exam days. Although students overwhelmingly supported extending the calendar year, the motion ultimately failed and the Sunday exams option, favoured by faculty, was chosen.
“From among a variety of poor choices [the school is] most able to live with Sunday exams,” said Rybak.
Scarborough’s faculty was strongly opposed to filling exam rooms to capacity because it would make invigilation difficult.
“One professor even said he’d sooner invigilate an exam at 2 a.m. than deal with the instances of cheating that would be created under those conditions,” said Rybak.
“A student should not be put in a situation where they have to compromise their religious faith to accommodate university convenience,” said Jemy Joseph, life science director of the SCSU, referring to a concern that has sparked a vigorous debate of its own on the site, which allows students to express concerns to their union, as well as chat.
While some students argue that Sunday should be preserved as a religious day, others argue that this line of reasoning promotes the favouritism that the Christian faith has come to expect.
“No one is suggesting that religion isn’t important to our students. [But] making a plea to maintain a place for a very specific set of religions to the exclusion of others is the problem,” said Rybak on the forum.
“Those faiths that mandate prayer on days and at times that we don’t commonly break for at UTSC have been grappling with exactly this issue for ages.”
Another factor complicating Sunday exams is the TTC’s unreliable public transportation system in Scarborough.
“Depending on where you live, there isn’t sufficient service or [there’s] no service at all on Sundays,” said Joseph. Several transit routes that go to UTSC are semi-operational or completely decommissioned that day, making exams scheduled at 9 or 10 a.m. impossible to get to for some.
“Students should not have to have exams on Sundays or lose reading week because the school has enrolled too many students and not thought of the ramifications of the designs of the new buildings,” reads one student’s post. “The administration needs to deal with its mistakes.” It’s a sentiment that is representative of views expressed by many. In a poll conducted on the forum, three of 34 people voted in favour of Sunday exams.
“I was disheartened by the fact that the Board of Directors, elected by students to represent them, did not do their jobs,” said Joseph. Rybak is more concerned about dealing with the reality students will now have to face.
“I can only say that I’m sorry and I sympathize. I hope you’ll all forgive me if I get used to saying ‘I’m just doing my job.'”