More than 1,500 Dawson College students have voted to boycott final exams this week.
The vote was held electronically over the past day: 51 per cent of students (1,519) voted in favour of the protest.
A total of 2,970 students representing 29.5 per cent of the student population voted.
“Students voted to oppose the college’s decision to not move exams online or to another suitable format,” said Kevin Contant-Halowatyj, Dawson College Student Union (DSU) chair.
“These are students that are willing not to show up at their exams.”
Students have been asking the college to move their in-person exams to an online format due to COVID-19 concerns.
The union says some students fear they will catch the virus and bring it to their families. They say the college has failed to make plans for immunocompromised students or those who may be self-isolating.
“At the end of the day, this is about ego. The college doesn’t want to listen to their students. They’ve created this issue,” Contant-Holowatyj said.
“They’ve had ample opportunities to talk to us, to try to find a solution but they’ve resisted and now they have a crisis in their hands.”
Both the college and the student union have filed separate court injunctions.
The student union’s injunction –filed last week– asked the courts to halt in-person exams.
Dawson College’s injunction was filed on Tuesday, asking the courts to prevent students from blocking access to those who do want to do their exams in person.
According to Dawson College, the courts have ruled in its favour.
“We have had discussions with the DSU to find solutions that protect the health and safety of our students, including significant accommodations for students who are immunocompromised or have immunocompromised family members,” wrote Megan Aiscow, a spokesperson for Dawson College in a statement.
“With today’s court ruling and approval from the Direction Régional de Santé Publique (DRSP) for all our health protocols regarding in-person exams, the College’s position is that students who do not show up for their exams will be given a grade of zero.”
The college argues that the majority of students will be able to do online exams but those scheduled to do so in-person must do so to ensure academic integrity.
“For certain disciplines, there is a need for an in-person evaluation due to either the practical nature of the assessment or difficulty in preserving academic integrity. Most of the students coming in for final exams have already been on campus for essential learning activities this semester,” Aiscow wrote.
Meanwhile, the union says the duration of the protest will depend on the college’s response.
“What is certain at this point is that unless and until all final exams are moved to an online format, Dawson students will refrain from attending their final exams during the examination period which is currently scheduled to run from May 27 to June 4, 2021, inclusively,” the union wrote in a statement.
The union believes that Dawson College doesn’t have the capacity to make good on its threat to fail students because it won’t have room to accommodate them the following year.
“Realistically, even with a hundred students striking, the college won’t have a choice but to adapt themselves because they are going to have serious issues on their hands,” said Contant-Holowatyj.
Final exams are set to be held in-person starting Thursday at 8 a.m.