A growing number of parents and students are upset with a plan by Dawson College to reopen its doors next week, so that 600 students can write final exams in a handful of summer courses.
The CEGEP remained largely closed for most of the summer. It opened for a few classes and labs that were held in July, mainly in science disciplines.
The exams will take place over three days, in physics, chemistry and math.
Parent Dr. Michael Kalin is upset his daughter needs to go in and write her exam in person.
“I think this is an unnecessary risk at a time when we have a pandemic that is quite unique,” the family doctor said.
“This is inconsistent with the message the government is trying to say. I think it’s inconsistent with public health policy. I don’t understand why higher education means higher risk.”
Several students have launched an online petition, opposing the plan to write in-person exams. As of Friday, July 31, 500 people had signed it.
The petition on change.org reads, in part, “We are not willing to risk our health, nor the health and safety of our families in order to complete an exam that can easily be performed online – as was proven since we proceeded in this way during the winter semester of 2020. ”
The petition, launched this week, also says students were only “just informed” of the plan to write in person exams.
But Dawson College Academic Dean Diane Gauvin disputes that. She says when students signed up for the courses in June, they were told exams would be written in person.
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She said one of the big reasons is to prevent cheating.
In a phone interview, Gauvin said:, “We made this decision for pedagogical reasons. We are always concerned about academic integrity. This is something that we take extremely seriously. It is a concern.”
She said Dawson will be going above and beyond public health guidelines. She said students will maintain a distance of two metres apart at all times, even though public health only requires 1.5 m distances. Students will be required to wear masks at all times, even during exams. And the exam rooms will be thoroughly cleaned before and after use.
Students can only get an exemption if they have a doctor’s note. If they choose not to write the exam, they will have to repeat the course.
Gauvin said both the department of education and the health ministry approve of Dawson’s plan.
“I can tell you I had a conversation yesterday with public health. I presented our plan and they were fully supportive of our decision,” Gauvin said.
Some students don’t understand why they can’t write exams online, like in the spring.
But Gauvin says education ministry guidelines changed since then. In the spring, Dawson could give students a simple pass or fail grade. They can no longer do that, and therefore grading the exam is a more involved process.
But some parents like Dr. Kalin believe it’s all too much pressure for students at a time when COVID-19 cases are rising among the young.
“There is a lot of hesitation and anxiety, which I think has been shared by many of the students,” Kalin said.
The exams take place over three days next week.