UBC Alma Mater Society calls on university to cancel in-person exams

Student president Cole Evans and student vice president academic and university affairs Eshana Bhangu expressed their concerns in a letter to UBC officials

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      With only a few days left in the UBC winter exam schedule, there are growing calls for the university to offer these tests online.

      The UBC Alma Mater Society is among those who've issued this demand in response to a growing number of COVID-19 infections from the highly contagious Omicron variant.

      The AMS response and an online petition follow a series of astonishing revelations on the UBC subreddit forum.

      It included comments from students claiming that others who are sick are writing exams, including some who admitted to testing positive. 

      This morning (December 19) at 11 a.m., AMS vice president academic and university affairs Eshana Bhangu will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. outside the Koerner Library. She's called on other students to join AMS representatives in solidarity—"masked and distanced".

      In a December 17 letter to UBC president Santa Ono, provost Andrew Szeri, and the deans committee, Bhangu and AMS president Cole Evans called for "decisive action in the best interest of student safety" by cancelling in-person examinations.

      "We implore you to act with urgency in light of the situation, and would like to notify you that students feel strong disappointment, extreme stress, and a total lack of confidence when it comes to the academic leadership of the University in ensuring their safety while writing exams," Bhangu and Evans wrote.

      "Failure to act would be a most regrettable situation, as it is endangering student safety and health by continuing to hold in-person examinations."

      The exam schedule began on  December 11 and ends on December 22. According to the university, exams normally last about 2.5 hours.

      The online petition on change.org has 904 signatures as of this writing. It was posted by UBC senator and graduate student Julia Burnham.

      "With exams taking place in massive gyms and lecture halls with up to 900 students packed closely together, we are experiencing an urgent threat to the health and safety of not only our campus communities but all of our extended contacts and families we had planned to return home to," Burnham wrote on change.org. "With all of the packed libraries, residence halls and transit commutes to campus, the risk of in-person examinations is dispersed far and beyond an exam hall. Dozens of other universities in Canada have already identified this risk and moved their examinations online. Why won't UBC?"

      The University of Victoria moved to online examinations on December 13 in response to the spread of the Omicron variant on campus.

      Simon Fraser University, on the other hand, continues offering in-class exams, prompting the following post on the SFU subreddit forum, which is presented unedited:

      "Hello everyone, As I’m sure you know many school have transitioned to online exams and will be offering online courses in the spring (at least in the beginning) until we are more familiar with the new omicron variant. Unfortunately, SFU is refusing to move the exams online for the time being. Ubc is doing the same. I have noticed that students from UBC seem to be way more vocal with their frustration as opposed to us. This is especially apparent when comparing the two subreddits. I’m wondering why? Im genuinely curious. Thanks for reading."


      UBC issued a statement on December 19 in response to concerns about the safety of exams. You can read it here.