Laying the blame is not always easy

Lecturers have an inexplicable affinity for writing in small fonts. Or so I thought – till I found out I was, quite literally, shortsighted. For years I’d struggled to decipher the mysterious scrawlings up on the blackboard. I’d tried sitting in the front row, and had even requested a few lecturers to adjust the lights, and perhaps write a bit bigger, but the improvements were always marginal.

I would have remained convinced of my pet theory if a friend hadn’t goaded me into an eye exam. An hour, and fifty beers worth in cash later, and my entire perspective had changed. With my new glasses, the jumble of Greek and numbers on the blackboard came into sharp focus. It remained indecipherable, but for far less malicious reasons than I’d first suspected.

Laying the blame is not always as easy however.

Take an (in)famous course at the FEB for example. Last year, the pass rate for the exam and the resit were both reported to be under twenty percent. That’s even lower than your chance at keeping your sanity while trying to get to Groningen by public transport nowadays.

Whether everyone has fair access to that system though, is up for debate

Opinions are divided as to the root cause. Was the work load too high? Were things not explained clearly enough, or was it the result of the failing ‘academic culture’ among students that everyone’s talking about? And who decides? There are no easy answers (unless of course, you’re a disgruntled student who’s had to cancel vacation plans).

In the case of Marwa M. vs. the UMCG or Depp vs. Heard, it’s even more unclear. Although we’re presented with snippets of evidence, it’s not self-evident that we ought to, or are even qualified to venture a judgement.

What does help is that there’s an independent and objective system in place that’s meant to address such matters. Whether everyone has fair access to that system though, is up for debate – especially when it’s a student pitted against the juggernaut that is the university’s bureaucracy.

I’ve resolved not to play judge, jury, or executioner for the coming weeks. I will try, however, to remember to take my glasses to the lecture hall.


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