Ultra Vires


1Ls Outraged by Final Exam Circumstances

Exam room conditions are unacceptable, and are not a “viable option.”

On Monday afternoon the faculty announced that all of the 1L exams (three hours each, other than Admin which is two) will be held in the basement rooms of the Pharmacy building. The student response was overwhelming, contacting the faculty in large numbers to express outrage at an absolutely unacceptable situation, stating in no uncertain terms that the administration of a “world class” institution, charging the highest tuition in Canada, should be ashamed. We have been told to rest assured that “no fewer than eight” administrative staff worked on this problem, and consulted the SLS. This has done little to allay student concerns.

The outrage is not limited to the student body. Professor Jim Phillips called it “ridiculous” that students paying $30 000 tuition are forced to take 100% open book exams, on which so much depends, in “totally inadequate conditions.”

So what’s going on, and why are we in this situation?

For those of you who have forgotten the agonizing two hours of LPPE last December, we have included a handy reference of what a Crim exam might look like, with a laptop, textbook, mandatory criminal code, and a summary, alongside a picture of where you will be writing your exam if you opted for a space in the computer lab. One of them is a pretty ugly sight (Harrison’s astounding visual appeal notwithstanding).

Most of us with laptops opted not to write our exams in the computer lab, expecting facilities in line with December exams. Instead, people writing on their own laptops have practically no usable space, and people writing in the computer lab (or by hand, if that’s their thing) have quite a great deal of space. It bears repeating that these exams are responsible for 100% (or in the case of Admin, a lean 60%) of the grades for an entire year of coursework, and are the driving factor in job opportunities for a majority of the class this summer and next year.

The faculty suggest the “only two viable options” were handwritten exams for everyone, or a single room with plugs for everyone and tablet arms for desks (deemed the “equitable option”). We respectfully disagree, but some context is important. Following the debacle of December exams in the Pharm building, the SLS informed the faculty that it was not an acceptable option going forward. At the time the student body had been generally quite concerned with power outlets for exams. We were unfamiliar with how Examsoft might impact battery life, among other uncertainties, and outlets seemed a reasonable priority. The SLS passed this along, and the reality that most of the class will not require an outlet during finals came late, after the faculty had approached external venues with a requirement of a plug for every student (where they expected to find such a facility is another question). Small wonder they found nothing suitable, and at the time, reasonable for the SLS to accept.

We know now that while “space with plugs for every laptop” is a laudable goal, a plainly more appropriate priority is space with outlets for 1/15 to 1/20 laptops. Those whose laptops can’t last that long are welcome to sit at the sides of the rooms and use the few outlets that are available—a simple survey could determine who would require such reserved seating. This seems like a perfectly workable solution, provided we do not all have to be in the same room, and any reason we might need to be has not been made explicit.

Ultimately the issue probably comes down to cost: it costs too much to find us adequate facilities. This is a flawed premise. Adequate exam conditions are an absolute requirement, not a conditional one. Cost is a secondary factor, and one of doing business, not for the shoulders of the 1L class that was assured the transitional space would not negatively impact our law school experience.

Stress runs high among the 1Ls in any year, and grows exponentially worse as finals approach. For an administration ostensibly very concerned about student mental health, practically guaranteeing a significant increase in stress levels seems an odd move. We don’t want to lead this into the tuition can of worms (really, we don’t), but as the faculty is not particularly forthcoming with respect to where exactly tuition goes, it seems a fair target for questions. Certainly it’s going to sting if our 1L class, missing Flavelle, and almost certainly missing the new facilities, bears the worst of this burden

So, as students we’re quick to talk big, but what do we suggest? Well, from a staggering number of posts on the subject (100+ comments in about an hour on the original post on the 2016 class Facebook page), several notable ideas have come forward:

  1. Put us in different rooms. No explanation has come forward as to why we need to sit with 100 other chattering laptops, instead of in smaller groups. Sure, we can’t support 100 laptops on a single plug, but we don’t have to.
  2. Even if you do want outlets for every computer, why not just use power bars in rooms like our own Reading Room? Certainly we realize this may be a fire hazard if you overload a room, but again, with several rooms this could not be a problem…
  3. Rent space off campus. While the administration has asserted no such spaces exist, it seems as though any number of conference centers would be suitable. There has been some suggestion that the reason no suitable spaces exist on the basis of giving each student a plug. See above. If not, perhaps the administration could tell us why not.
  4. Allow more students to write in computer labs, or at least allow students who, knowing what they know now, would prefer to handwrite.
  5. Professor Phillips also went on to suggest our own space: Between the Rowell Room, the area between the front door and the former library, and the foyer with the fireplace, as well as the solarium in Falconer, adding tables could accommodate up to 80 people. Splitting time between two big group sections could make this workable, and it is only a start.

The faculty will be meeting on Wednesday with members of the SLS to discuss what may be done at this point although no promises have been made.


The general sentiment we'll all be expressing shortly.
The general sentiment we’ll all be expressing shortly.
Two textbooks, a summary, the exam questions, a laptop. A bit much.
Two textbooks, a summary, the exam questions, a laptop. A bit much.
More desk space in the lab
More desk space in the lab
Desk space in the lab
Desk space in the lab

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