Administrative delays only add to student stress

From delays in posting marks on ACORN to the untimely release of the exam schedule, the Faculty of Arts & Science should be more concerned with timeliness

Administrative delays only add to student stress

Over the past few months, students in the Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS) have been subjected to various inconveniences. At the beginning of the winter semester, marks for several courses from the fall semester were not available on ACORN, with some marks not posted until as late as January 17. Students in CSC236, CSC324, CSC411, STA347, JAV200, and ARC251 were particularly affected by this.

The FAS did not offer a satisfactory explanation or an apology. Instead, Deborah Robinson, Faculty Registrar and Director of Undergraduate Academic Services, excused the delay by stating that most students had their marks by January 11.

More recently, “technical issues” caused a delay in the release of the FAS exam schedule. Some students did manage to access the schedule after refreshing the page several times, creating a situation in which only a small handful of students were able to access what should have been available to all.

Though the exam schedule was eventually released online after a couple of days, the FAS failed to fully explain what the exact nature of the problem was, let alone issue any kind of apology. They released a GIF of a cheerful student when the exam timetable finally became available.

Both of these delays may seem like mere inconveniences, but they can, in fact, cause real problems for students. The delayed first semester grades resulted in a great deal of uncertainty: some students found themselves unsure if they were able to apply to a certain program of study, if they had fulfilled necessary prerequisites, or if they needed to retake any classes to obtain a credit or improve their marks.

And while it is fortunate that the exam schedule was posted shortly after the scheduled release date, one can imagine the many potential problems that can come from not knowing your exam schedule. Deferring exams, or rescheduling them due to conflicts, can be an onerous process in and of itself, while uncertainty in the schedule can also delay students’ ability to make summer plans.

After these delays, the best the FAS has managed to offer its students has been to thank them for being patient. What they should have done instead was explain what was going on and clarify any technical issues while also telling students how those issues were being addressed, even if they were unable to specify a timeline.

It’s also important for students to know if these delays are merely flukes in a system that generally works well, or if they are symbolic of larger technical or organizational problems in the FAS. Students have a right to know what’s going on, especially with so much at stake. The consequences of grade delays can be very serious — they can even impact the educational and career tracks of students who need their grades to apply to graduate programs or jobs.

Incidentally, technical difficulties at U of T do not just occur within the FAS. In May 2017, thousands of U of T email accounts were inaccessible for days after access was meant to be restored. However, in that instance, there was a clear explanation: the accounts had been temporarily deactivated to facilitate their transfer to a more local data centre. The lack of access was obviously frustrating, but at least we all understood the source of the problem and knew that it was unlikely to happen again.

Hopefully the posting of the exam schedule signals the end of the FAS’s technical issues. If not, I hope that student frustration will at least encourage the FAS to be more open about the causes of any future issues as they take steps to fix them.

Adina Heisler is a third-year student at University College studying English and Women and Gender Studies. She is The Varsity’s Student Life Columnist.

Marking delay in some courses leaves students without first-semester grades

Arts & Science registrar says marks should be posted by mid-January

Marking delay in some courses leaves students without first-semester grades

Students in at least six undergraduate courses have yet to receive their marks from the first semester, a delay that has not been explained by the university as of yet.

The Faculty of Arts & Science registrar has tweeted that grades should be available on ACORN by mid-January and has thanked students for their patience.

Students took to online forums over the past week to voice their concerns regarding the missing grades, largely among Computer Science classes.

“So, I’m over a week into the winter semester, and I don’t know whether I should be re-attempting the course (in order to get into the POSt), or continuing my studies in computer science,” wrote reddit user DMihai on the U of T subreddit. “I was hoping I would be out of this limbo soon. Since admission into the computer science post is already incredibly stressful, releasing CSC236 marks this late is insulting.”

Komania, another Reddit user in a different computer science course, CSC324, wrote that prior to writing their final exam on December 16, the class had only 20 per cent of their total mark returned. “I’m venting because I’m really annoyed. I just wish there would be some communication but [the professor] just ignores all of us. I pay $13,000 in tuition and they can’t hire enough TAs to adequately mark.”

Reddit user jjstat4 expressed concern for students who have to decide on back-up courses if they fail CSC236, “as the wait-list end date and drop date rapidly approaches.”

As of press time, marks for CSC236, CSC324, CSC411, STA347, JAV200, and ARC251 have not been posted to ACORN.

U of T Media Relations did not respond to The Varsity‘s inquiries on the grading delays by press time.

If you are a student who has been affected by the grading delay, The Varsity would like to hear from you. Email deputynews@thevarsity.ca with tips.

Editor’s Note (January 17): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that CSC165 had not released course grades by January 15. CSC165 had, in fact, released course grades by January 15.