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GSU-S4C Joint Statement on Schols

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                  7th January 2022

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Dear undergraduates and postgraduates

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We are writing to highlight an urgent issue that has come to the attention of the GSU Executive, Students4Change and the Chair of the GSU Board.

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It has come to our attention that the Schols Examinations will proceed on Monday January 10th, 2022 with formal communication being issued as late as late last night Thursday 6th to students this week in relation to these exams. This lack of communication and engagement with the Schols secretary, Schols applicants and indeed student representatives raises deep concerns. We have included here links to all known information contained on the Schols pages of Trinity College Dublin.

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In a GSU Executive meeting held yesterday, several issues were discussed around Schols and the following concerns were raised:

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1. The timing amidst high numbers of Omicron cases in the community does not take into account the risk of illness leading up to or during the exam dates which will disadvantage students. Therefore, we are asking TCD to space out tables and limit room capacity to a lower number and to please distribute FFP2 masks which offer high-grade protection to all those students sitting Schols and to those invigilating exams.
2.We understand that the exams are to run at 60% capacity (similar to the RDS) and will be invigilated by postgraduate invigilators but this raises the same issues which we campaigned vehemently on regarding the safety and working conditions of invigilation staff, such as requiring postgraduate invigilators to clean up Covid-19 storage bags. We would ask College to provide sufficient bin capacity so that students can dispose of their bags that may be contaminated.
3.The GSU and S4C would like to raise concerns about accessibility. The pandemic has further excluded students with underlying conditions or disabilities (there’s no mention of disabled students nor accommodations highlighted on the website pertaining to Schols). We believe that this could easily dissuade students from applying, especially this (as opposed to last) year.
4.Preparing for Schols is the most restrictive aspect of the Schols experience. Many students who are sustaining a job for example, do not have the time to dedicate to studying for the exams and are disadvantaged. This is especially true this year, when those students working will be exposed to the public and could easily become ill or worse bring illness to the exam space to other Schol hopefuls and to postgraduate invigilators.
5.Discriminating factors we have identified with Schols for undergraduates who will eventually become membersof the postgraduate in community (as the funding given extends to a Schol until they are postgraduate students.
6.There has been previous debate on whether Schols should exist – current funding runs over 1.5 million to maintain accommodation, food, and a small stipend, but we believe that academic merit and tradition are important pillars of our student community and should facilitate gender culture, race and disability (both hidden and mental and physical).
7.Last year’s Schols exams were online, which came with its own set of challenges. Accessibility has become one of the central facets in combating the pandemic. Covid-19 has forced each of us to tailor certain practices, in particular towards the online arena, so as to curb its transmission. This year, College has not put in place an adequate hybrid learning environment for students in Semester 1. Contradictory communications, such as backtracking on promised remote access to learning, were issued in the first months of the academic term and resulted in students stuck at home and abroad not being able to prepare for their exams. In addition, with a large share of learning having taken place online, some students might feel unprepared to take in-person handwritten exams. In a recent survey, 66% of students indicated from our College that they had most of their teaching online in the first Semester. As far back as October, students were petitioning to move the Schols examinations online via an open letter signed by students from across departments. When surveyed today, candidate Scholars did not agree on switching to an exclusively-online way of assessment at the last minute, nor did they agree with keeping it solely in-person. From a sample of 52, no majority is for either online or in-person. 19.2% are for in-person and 28.8% are for online, the rest for postponement. Therefore, due to the divided opinions of all those applying for Schols, we are not asking for any shifts structure or time-wise, but we are disappointed at College’s slow reaction to community feedback.
8.As for Proctoring, being monitored and taking a real-time online exam during a pandemic will feed into the extraordinary stress students have been under since this September 2021. The additional stress can result in mental distress or even physical discomfort from headaches to panic attacks. Besides, the stress and discomfort arising from being monitored will affect the students’ performances. Discriminating factors we have considered with Proctorio at the Graduate Students’ Union which we believe would bring undue anxiety and stress:

[a] Infrastructure (affording a computer or internet at home) is stressful.

[b] Living conditions (shared rooms where students can take their exams

without being disturbed and can concentrate. Students might live in

accommodations that are loud because of many reasons from nearby

constructions or motorway to crowded apartments).

[c] Students with caring duties might find it difficult to find someone to take care of their children while they are sitting an exam or making clear that they

are under no circumstance be disturbed which induces anxiety.

The use of online proctoring software such as Proctorio violates student privacy and creates unnecessary barriers to exam-taking. It should not be used in Trinity College Dublin.

9.Whilst we very much appreciate the effort being made by those organising the in-person exams which 898 Schols students are slated to take starting Monday January 10th, 2022 these plans present several issues. Students may not wish to sacrifice personal health and safety by sitting an in-person exam and are then asked to choose between maintaining privacy and maintaining safety during a pandemic. International students who made plans around the holiday and exam period with the exam information given in November are currently abroad or in other countries and may contract the virus whilst returning to sit Schols which leads us to our following ask.
10.To sum up, the issue is one of poor communication and lack of choice… the lack of transparency, coupled with the lack of stakeholder consultation relating to the Schols exams . We held a consultation with several Schols in College as well as potential Schols who will sit the exams next week and the most unsatisfactory issue is if a student becomes too ill to sit Schols between Monday January 10th and Friday January 14th. The students’ only option is to sit the exam in January 2023. This locks a potential scholar out of funding for a whole year of their lives. We are insisting that a second sitting of the exams must take place before Trinity Monday in late June 2022 to accommodate these potential Schols, therefore no-one is left behind.

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The GSU and S4C expresses concern in relation to the upcoming Schols examinations and presents a number of recommendations. The health and safety of undergraduate students and postgraduate invigilators must be of the utmost importance and we hope that College will listen to our concerns and asks to ensure the wellbeing of our Community.

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Gisèle Scanlon, President, Graduate Students’ Union +353864120444

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László Molnárfi, Chairperson, Students4Change +32 470583174

Schols Survey Results Favours Postponement or Postponement until Hybrid Exam

This is not a statement yet, just a few bits of data.

When surveyed, candidate Scholars did not agree on an exclusively-online or exclusively in-person system as of 06/01/2022 17:17. From a sample of 53, no majority is for either online or in-person. 18.9% are for in-person and 28.3% are for online, the rest 52.8% for postponement. However, many students, upon seeing that there was no hybrid option in the form, have indicated to Students4Change that they are in favour of a hybrid system, as that is the most fair, and stressed the importance of mechanisms which ensure academic integrity.

A few comments from students as follows.

“I think another option might be to offer online exams to those who have covid but who are still well enough to sit the exam, just so that they don’t have to wait until next year to get a chance at schols. It would prevent anyone from going into the exam hall knowing they have covid too”


“Offering a deferral for next year really isn’t a fair alternative”

“People studying for schols have been working under the assumption that it’s in person this whole time, so a complete change of plans might do more harm, but people also shouldn’t have to wait a year to retake for something they can’t control”

Various FOIs on RDS Costs, Student Fee Arrears, Harrasment Cases, Casualization Costs

Students4Change has obtained a variety of FOIs. We believe that open access to information leads to transparency, which means accountability, and accountability means a better-run University.

The FOIs relate to a couple of topics. The number of harrasment, discrimination and bullying cases, top 10 highest paid professors in College (we’ve blocked the names out), cost of RDS in 2019, emails relating to College’s attempt to cut casual pay rates in 2019, non-disclosure agreements, very detailed information on staff pay rates (incl. casualization) and employment status, drop outs (withdrawals) during the pandemic (quite shocking, also hinted at by the TCDSU’s earlier big SUrvey) and finally the number of students in arreas.

You can find them here.

For the accommodation and travel expenses FOI the attached documents were not in the email but College is rectifying it soon so do check back for these.

Recent FOIs obtained by Students4Change include the appointment of Trinity East Independent Monitor and the Old Library Redevelopment Steering Committee not being consulted on the Interim Exhibtion on College Park.

Appointment of Trinity East Independent Monitor

In response to queries about a possible conflict of interest, Aarecent FOI and research by Students4Change has revealed that that Mr. Andrew Grainger, independent monitor of Trinity East, spent up to 6 years as an external member of the Estates Policy Committee. A tender was put out, and a recruitement company called Adaptive HMV got it, who then selected him to be the Independent Monitor. In other words, he went from external member (taking part in the meetings relating to Trinity East) to independent monitor of Trinity East.

Find it here.

Old Library Redevelopment Steering Committee Not Consulted on Interim Exhibtion

The OLRP Steering Committee was not consulted on the change of the location of the Interim Exhibition to College Park, a new FOI by Students4Change has found.

A separate FOI relating to all communications between Dublin City Council and College re. Interim Exhibition was rejected, and so was a recent FOI on the Science Gallery.

In Solidarity with the JCR

All JCR events have been banned by College until further notice due to an event going awry out of no fault of the JCR.  Trinity Halls residents will be left without support during the holidays. 

Here is our statement of support.

The week of the 20th is Christmas week at Halls. Christmas week is not a week to be discussing events – vendors, organize gazeebos, catering, etc. and for College to be giving permission. If the JCR are interested in planning Christmas event, a plan would have to be tabled this week on Tuesday at the Covid-19 Management Team meeting. The time for the JCR to bring events for approval is next week, but if this review takes place next week within the next couple of days (and presented on Thursday at the Trinity Living with Covid meeting) then the JCR will not be able to hold events because they will not have time to discuss and propose events. With respect, the JCR needs time to prepare events and not get distracted by such reviews. What it is is a perfectly timed review to halt the operations of the JCR, to act as an impediment for their operations, which will ultimately end up punishing students who stay over for Christmas.

In addition, the exam season might impede the review, and who knows when it will be complete because of that.

In past years, the JCR has organized multiple events per month. However, as demonstrated, this year’s JCR is being pressured and banned by College from organizing events. This is unacceptable.

From a University To A Business – A History of Fees in Ireland

Students4Change supports USI’s F*ck the Fees Protest.

USI’s protest takes place Molesworth Street in Dublin at 2pm on the 23rd. Other regions have protests too, check out USI’s social media.

Tuition fees for third-level were abolished in the mid-1990s, however, this has resulted in the Government being tempted to slowly cut funding.

While student numbers increased, so did taxpayer’s investments into Universities, but the overall money available per-student has been decreasing. For example, spending per student at third-level decreased from €10,806 in 2007 to €7,089 in 2016, a drop of 34.4%.

This is despite the fact that between 2007 and 2016, public spending on education increased by 5.1%. It is simply not enough, and this has resulted in the corporatization of Universities, where they have to make up for the loss of state funding by operating like for-profit businesses, cutting courses and downsizing services like counselling.

The process of corporatization has also seen the loss of democracy within Universities, with once-lively student and academic committees making decisions being replaced by closed, managerial and elite decision-making bodies.

The so-called “Free Fees Initative” that was put in place in the mid-90s soon came to be a myth. Already in 2009/2010, students had to pay a “Registration Fee” of €1,500 to access education. By 2020-2021, this fee, now called the “Student Contribution” stands at €3,000.

On the picture, the 2010 student protests are shown, at which participants were brutally beaten by the Gardaí.

Austerity post-2008 was when bankers got away with gambling away people’s lives and the universities were essentially privatised. In Ireland, banks got a €64 billion bailout, funded by taxpayer money.

Today, only 5% of students are from a disadvantaged background in Trinity College Dublin as per the HEA report of 2020. Socioeconomic diversity is at an all time low accross all Universities, as students must pay up to 14,000 € per year for tuition and overpriced student accommodation.

At the same time, student nurses midwifes and dental practicioners are being exploited. “Before their final year internship, most student nurses and midwives get either nothing or an allowance of just €50.79 per week,” says INMO, their union.

Students are emigrating under this immense financial pressure. However, if we combine our forces, we can still change our situation.

In the UK, grassroots groups organized in 2020-2021, engaging in rent strikes and eventually winning refunds of up to 30% for the academic year.

In the Netherlands, tuition fees were halved following the 2020-2021 academic year for 2021-2022, due to the loss of student experience during Covid-19.

All this shows that another system is possible. We need to organize ourselves in radical, mass organizations and keep pushing for change at every corner.

Students4Change and GSU Joint Press Release to Protect Students During Exams

Dear undergraduates, dear postgraduates, dear students, 

As we approach exams, Students4Change (S4C) and the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) would like to share their utmost concern relating to the sudden return to in-person exams in the RDS for some students, and the overall plan for assessment in Semester 1. 

Our position has been consistent since September. We have always advocated for a proper return to in-person classes, with strong hybrid learning supports in place for those who, due to Covid-19 or otherwise, are anxious about returning to College campus. In addition, we’ve taken onboard students’ worries about a sudden return to in-person exams in the RDS and advocated for holistic, open-book alternatives to traditional exams, which worked so well last year. Finally, central to our requests was that if the student experience is compromised, refunds should be given. 

Chairperson of Students4Change László Molnárfi says, “there is an opportunity to build back better as a community, but College is squandering it with its short-term thinking and preoccupation with revenues. Instead of investing in re-timetabling software, proper ventilation and hybrid learning systems, they are trying to save face by refusing to acknowledge the deep-rooted governance problem that originates from the Provosts’ Office. There is a lack of democracy, transparency and accountability.” 

This means that instead of progressing as an academic community, initiative is stifled by bureaucratic means, and decisions which are detrimental to students and staff are pushed through, with little to no consideration of their effects.

Students4Change and the GSU are calling on the IUA (Irish Universities Association) to reconsider the decision for Universities to hold in-person exams in light of current high COVID-19 numbers.“

We would like to express through this press release our concerns about College’s current lack of mitigation measures and contingency plans for in-person RDS and online exams in Semester 1 of 2021-2022. Last year, the counselling services at peak time – build-up to exams – averaged ‘100 on the waitlist and several weeks to see a 1-1 counsellor’. It is with this figure in mind that the exam season should be considered, as if it is done in an unthoughtful way, it will have catastrophic consequences for students’ wellbeing. 

In general, our requests have been the following, which Students4Change has communicated to the Provosts’ Office via an email on the 30th of September 2021, and which the GSU has raised at College committees:

  • We asked for College to consider the possibility of using the same exam format as last year, both for standard assessment in Semester 1 and for Schols, since  open-book exams are a holistic way of assessment and should be encouraged all-around.
  • We asked College to make sure that, in all cases, assessments are the least stressful possible. For example, put a permanent end to the use of the invasive Proctorio monitoring software, which can encourage unconscious bias, does not work for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and has serious data privacy issues.

However, with the upcoming in-person RDS exams and online exams, our requests need to be more specific, in the form of proposals. As such, we would like to ask for mitigation measures, and a contingency plan, which should include the following, and keep in mind the following:

  • According to the TCDSU’s Mid Semester Review of 2020-2021, 28.9% of surveyed AHSS and HS students said that their primary working environment is not a private bedroom or study space. As such, we would like to ask that real-time online exams be extended to give flexibility to people with home environments that are not suitable for writing exams within a very short timeframe.
  • As per statistics, 11% of homes in the North of Ireland (Ofcom Connect Nations Report 2019) and 20% of homes in the Republic of Ireland (Eir.ie National Broadband Plan website) do not have access to high quality broadband and so could be severely impacted by real-time online exams which have a strict time limit. This is another argument for extending these exams to be 24hr/48hr/72hr exams, like last year. 
  • Wherever possible, compensate for the language barrier. Currently, there is a serious language barrier issue relating to in-person exams. Imagine, for example, a second-year international student who has never written a handwritten exam and always wrote open-book exams on the computer, with the dictionary and spell checker. If English is not their first language, they will be very disadvantaged. As such, dictionaries provided by the College should be allowed (at least for those who need it as a special accommodation due to language difficulties), but also, in the ideal scenario, exams in the RDS should be written on the computer to ensure a level playing field, with accessibility accommodations.  
    • While our College has entry requirements for language, language tests like CAE and our College’s perception of what is considered adequate is terribly mismatched with what lecturers expect. A C1 (180+) on Cambridge Advanced English (CAE) is much easier to accomplish than to write a good exam in second-year.
    • Computers for exams could be brought by students, and funded by College and the laptop loan scheme or by utilizing the computer labs. 
      • Keyboard-mediated exams are more flexible, can be corrected better and produce overall better quality for students and correctors. 
    • Extra time (15-20 minutes) could be given to students on request from the tutor, and allowances could be made for graders to not take into consideration grammar and spelling as much. 
    • The ideal solution is, of course, to simply move exams to be open-book assessments, with giving students ample time to submit by having long deadlines, based on last year’ model. 
  • Students from the countryside are disadvantaged, as they will have to travel up from their homes in crowded public transport, and spend hours in cramped exam halls. There is a serious Covid-19 danger, and College should as a whole reconsider in-person RDS exams, or at least, fund buses from cities to take students up to their exams. Just like how the  government guidelines are being revised at the moment, College should also take a step back and consider the possibility of building back better with holistic assessment and hybrid learning technology for the long-term.
  • In an email sent to all undergraduate and postgraduate students, College talks about how important personal responsibility is during Covid-19 and how “it would be a pity to miss assessments and defer to the summer”. In reality, College has allowed 78,000 tourists to visit campus between May and October of 2021, and should reconsider in-person RDS exams. There is a serious danger that students could get Covid-19, and long-Covid before and during exams, and as such students should be able to choose to repeat in April.   
    • Allow students to resit modules even if they have passed them, or to retrospectively defer assessments if they feel their performance has been affected.
    • Try to offer possibilities for students to take their exams in smaller venues wherever possible to reduce the risk of catching Covid-19.
  • Places to pray for religious students should be established within exam centers. 
  • Students should not have exams during their study period, even during contingency dates, especially since there are already loads of assignments due that week.
  • The GSU President Giséle Scanlon is deeply concerned that the postgraduate community will have to sit in-person exams in a few weeks time. 

“I  have engaged with classes and there are many practical issues which surround in-person exams which we are deeply concerned about at the Graduate Students’ Union. As a quality and equality issue, handwritten scripts are much poorer in general and disadvantage certain members of our community (students can’t return to write a sentence without messing up a handwritten exam for example) and therefore we are calling for keyboard mediated exams with the assurance that there will be enough postgraduate research students as invigilators set up to take the anxiety out of exams this year.”

  • In consultation with research postgraduates who have to teach and mark exam scripts – the GSU President Giséle Scanlon feels that:

“Having typed text to mark is the number one thing that will help the postgraduate community as it will improve quality for both students and teaching staff. A student can have an essay/answer and may wish to return to make improvements after handwriting pages, but handwritten scripts are too rigid and make improvement by addition and correction impossible and messy. Typed text creates a higher quality piece of work overall which is nicer to produce for our postgraduate taught students and less problematic to mark for our postgraduate research students.” 

  • If at all possible we would like to ask for College premises to be made available for students who will be taking off-books exams as cramped living conditions will prevent students from concentrating. 
  • The GSU has learnt from its doctoral cohort that “the one thing which is very stressful for students and teaching staff is last minute changes. An academic was teaching last week and ten minutes into a lecture was told that it also needed to be done on Blackboard because half a class had COVID or was awaiting results and if our T.A.s are preparing lectures/tutorials for in-person teaching there are animations behind the teacher on the screen and it helps to point things out. On Blackboard the animations don’t work, you can’t stand in front of the screen and those students who are learning from home just see a pixelated funny blob moving around. The teacher has to stand in front of the camera, so this is in a very controlled teaching environment so in terms of exams, I  anticipate challenges with the rising number of cases. I’m worried that now we are lambs to the slaughter in an in-person exam scenario which will affect grades.”
  • Also according to the GSU, there’s a second layer of complexity which is going to feature as a big problem if Trinity College goes ahead with in-person exams at the RDS. What do we do with students who are feeling unwell? A student being facilitated online whilst the rest of the class is sitting the exam in person… that’s an obvious inequity. The student who has to travel to the physical exam is disadvantaged having to use public transport and then to sit in a hall full of students which would mean possible  exposure to the virus at a time when there are but a few weeks to Christmas and students will be travelling home.

The GSU President explained that “I tried to get an ambulance for a student last week onto the Trinity College campus and I was told there was a six hour wait by the ambulance services. Although there are nurses present in the RDS, what if a student needs an ambulance with the HSE being so stretched at the moment it’s a valid concern? I had to book a taxi to take the student to St. James’s Hospital. What if a student runs into difficulty in the RDS? I have worked at the RDS helping the postgraduate community during their exams, there are many variables and unknowns which we deal with as a Union and it’s a valid concern.” 

  • The GSU president is “calling on the IUA (Irish Universities Association) to discuss a deferral of in-person exams for postgraduates in light of the current national COVID numbers. We are concerned for students who are sick or might have COVID, or will be awaiting test results that through no fault of their own they will have to choose an alternative option other than in person. There’s an equality issue if some students sit exams in different circumstances and we need to negotiate a good option for all of our students. Whether that is to repeat or defer free of charge to February, we’re asking for a solution so that postgraduates don’t feel that they have lost something, like so many students last year.”    

These mitigation measures are necessary to ensure the wellbeing of students and staff alike. 

László Molnárfi, Chairperson, Students4Change +32 470583174  

Gisèle Scanlon, President, Graduate Students’ Union +353864120444

Abhisweta Bhattacharjee, Vice-president, Graduate Students’ Union +918583981336

Results of Inclusivity Survey

Students4Change has undertaken a research on inclusivity at Trinity College Dublin and has found that there is a rigid, inflexible system which is a barrier to accessing education for many, especially disadvantaged groups.

Students4Change has always advocated for choice for students regarding online or recorded lectures. Other universities already have hybrid learning, such as 293 Colleges in the U.S. which employ hybrid learning (Source: C2I).

During the pandemic, students with disabilities faced increased barriers with regards to their education. One of these barriers was not-recorded, online live events which posed challenges for students with, for example, hearing difficulties.

Despite the return to face to face lectures, some students may be hesitant or anxious to come back in a full time capacity, either due to general anxiety around the ongoing pandemic, or due to them having vulnerable family members that means that they cannot take the risk, however small, of catching Covid-19 when in college.

Recently, staff complained of a lack of CO2 monitors, which measure how well rooms are ventilated. College could have worked on ventilation during the summer, but they choose not to, possibly due to the expenses associated.

Students who commute from long distances to come to college often have to get up very early, and have worse sleep schedules than students who live closer to college. The mental toll reduced sleep has on a student’s performance could be minimised if hybrid learning was implemented, giving students the opportunity to commute later and watch the recorded lecture when they have time later on in the day, not to mention financial considerations.

“My first semester of College cost ~150€ in bus fares and my girlfriend has spent about 50€ last week on train fares, ” says a student.

With the unaffordability of accommodation and many students commuting, recorded lectures and hybrid learning opportunities offer a more equal playing field for all students to get a quality education with reduced barriers to entry, not to mention that since not all courses were recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic, some students had less access to education than others, and as such, it was not a level playing field. It needs to be ensured that this does not happen again.

This issue will also manifest itself if in-person exams return, with students having to travel for online and in-person exams, both which might be scheduled for the same day.

Email from Senior Lecturer on October 18th saying that there is no remote learning for the entirety of the semester.

The issues surrounding lecture recording have been dealt with in our press release on September 12th, and it is our view that these issues are surmountable.

Student testimonies support a policy for hybrid learning. There is a moment, here and now, to push for this, and to build back better. Despite this, College’s re-opening plan is still chaotic and has barely an inclusivity considerations.

For example, a student shared with us that they were promised the ability to follow College online on September 6th, but College backtracked on this by the 18th of October, despite document proof that they are in HSE’s “high-risk” category. At the moment, their case is being helped by the Disability Service, but the outcome is expected to last weeks, at which point almost the whole term will have gone by.

– Email to the student in question asking for hybrid learning.

In a similar vein, there are a variety of exclusivity-related issues in College, namely that the LENS system is not effective enough. In one case, there was a part of a computer science module to which a student had to travel to 2.5 hours every Thursday to present their work, despite “it taking about 5-10 mins per student”.

“I emailed the lecturer explaining that I have severe travel anxiety (supported by my LENS) and wondering if I could just email my code in each week, however he adamantly refused to offer this. I even met with the head of my school and the Disability Services and nothing could be done about this and I was forced to take that travel time each week,” they say.

LENS reports are very limited in scope of what they can mandate from lecturers, and that does not guarantee that a lecturer will immediately grant what entitled to when a student has a LENS. The LENS primarily revolves around smaller things like alternate exam venues (instead of the RDS), a small amount of extra time in exams and access to the respite spaces on campus (which are themselves incredibly limited in scope, allowing only short amounts of time in them and requiring booking in advance). Any form of accommodations beyond what is in a student’s LENS are entirely up to the lecturer, and it is on the student to request them, which can be a demeaning experience.

Email to Computer Science students about the withdrawal of remote access to labs.

In some cases, the widthrawal of remote access seems absurd. For example, in the Computer Science department, remote lab access was withdrawn. They could reserve a few for remote access, but either there are a lack of computers or this consideration was not taken into account.

As such, a pattern was found to emerge. Casework by the Unions help, but the system by large remains insufficient because of bureucracy. As one student put it, “support services [during Covid-19] did not apply to people who are genuinely seeking help. They are a bandaid to a larger problem, that you have to beg for the process knowing it won’t ease the pain”. “Case-by-case” basis can produce results for some, and is better than nothing, but it also means that there is no effective long-term policy for dealing with an issue.

Specific issues that have been raised with us in our research:

  • The changeover of TCD-supported disability aid software from Grammarly to Microsoft Editor was done without consideration or consultation to users.
  • LENS report applied marking scheme not being used for grading assignments. E.g. no penalties for spelling and grammar would fall under this citerion.
  • Lecturers need to be aware that for some students, there is a marked difference in how they absorb information, which is different for online and in-person education, e.g. for discussion-based learning.
  • Emails go ignored, which is an issue for cases which have deadlines. For example, for one module’s assesment, voice narration was required, “I was struggling with a lot of anxiety when talking to other people, [so] I reached out to my lecturers for the module asking if I could write my part for the update, and my emails were completely ignored”, they say.
  • For assesments, more leeway should be given. Considerations that should be given include for those with slower reading and writing times for essays (e.g. dyslexia), those with chronic migraines, etc. During Covid-19 in the University of Manchester (which has a radical student movement), mitigation measures included automatic assignment extensions up to 7 days for two pieces of coursework, and the removal of the need to provide medical evidence for mitigating circumstances applications. “I have a good friend who is gonna be given a zero on an assignment despite having an IV in her arm right now because she “doesn’t have a doctor’s note, ” says a student.
  • The perception on-the-ground is that there is little to none continued support for hybrid learning. The technology is already partly there in College, so this seems like an absurd decision.

We would like nto note that the workload of academic staff, which with ever-increasing administrative and bureaucratic aspects, is also a barrier to access to education for students. It results in academic staff not having as much time as they should to consider individual students on a case-by-case basis.

Graduates throwing hats.

Similarly, but on another matter, LLM Law students had their graduation on Diwali this year (2020-2021), and despite complaints by Indian students, it was not changed. This means that Indian parents, for example, could not always come and see the graduation of their sons and daughters. Another student missed the graduation sign-up deadline, and despite pleading with the College, was not allowed to attend the ceremony, despite his girlfriend having travelled 4,500 kms to Ireland. These are all signs of a creeping takeover of College by bureaucracy which appears rational, but in reality, is the not conducive to human existence.

Graduation, in any case, should be based on alphabetical order (for being called up on stage), and should not have a compulsory dress code. Dress codes are generally ableist as they do not allow for flexibility in the event of discomfort formal clothes bring to disabled people, such as those with sensory processing issues related to autism where an autistic individual may be averse to the feeling of certain materials.

Schools need more funding, and College needs more democratic and inclusive decision-making structures, and long-term sustainable planning needs to replace chaotic short-termism. The bureaucracy needs to be done away with, and replaced with human-centric structures.

Thank you to everyone who contributed.

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