University of the West Indies’ students against face-to-face exams

Invigilator getting ready for a face-to-face exam
An invigilator getting ready for a face-to-face exam (Photo credit: Rodnae Productions)

The decision by the University of the West Indies to reimplement face-to-face examinations have resulted in stark criticism from the student body. This backlash came after the UWI campus registrar, Donovan Stanberry, released a memorandum to students on 23 July announcing face-to-face examinations. The memorandum read, “Despite the fact that approximately 70 per cent of our courses in semester one will be delivered online, most courses’ final assessment will be examined through a face-to-face assessment.”

The decision was challenged by a cross-section of students. Jevaughn Gordon, UWI Guild public relations officer said the Guild had carried out his own survey to determine to determine the perspective of the students. “We actually went ahead and sent out a form, a Google form, to ascertain the decisions or the views of the students in a more statistical sense so that when we entered into conversations with the administration, they would get a true sample size of what the students actually think,” said Gordon. He noted that 2,236 students had completed and returned the forms and 89 per cent of these responses were from returning students. Gordon noted that the survey showed that 77 per cent of the students were against the reimplementation of face-to-face examinations. He explained that the major issue highlighted by students was that they would not be able to make arrangements to sit their examinations on the Mona Campus or other designated centres.

Gordon advised that a meeting between the Guild and the UWI administration was scheduled for Thursday 29 July to discuss the student response to the memo. “The Guild will play an integral role in bringing forward recommendations. We know that some students are living abroad and are employed,” he observed. He emphasized that the COVID-19 Pandemic had disrupted the lives of the students. “In addition, increasing school expenses had resulted in many students having to work and many are on work and travel,” he noted. The Guild would be raising those issues with the UWI administration in a bid to convince them to reconsider the reinstitution of face-to-face examinations.

Andre Barrett, president of UWI Debate and Public Speaking Society also thought that the decision would “negatively impact students who are financially unable to make it to the university and those who have taken on job opportunities who would not have done so had things been normal.” Barrett noted that he had no issues with the online examinations and added that the UWI could implement screening measures against cheating if they were concerned about that challenge.

Shaina-lee Facey, a returning second year student, said she was likely to be affected by face-to-face exams because of where she lives in relation to Mona campus. Safety was also a concern for her. “We are doing classes online, and then we have to go to UWI campus to do our exams. It’s not safe because the majority of we not vaccinated and in one exam is 300 different pickney from 300 different yards and you know Jamaican people don’t like wearing masks,” said Facey. She felt that online exams was the better option until there was better control of the COVID-19 spread.

Gordon advised that the reason given by the UWI for reinstating face-to face examinations was “credibility for the degree and high surge in cheating rates.” Attempts were made to contact the administration of the UWI for a statement without success.

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