The punishment must fit the crime

As a student representative in Dublin, a lot of cases I worked involved students violating ‘academic integrity’. Depending upon their misdeeds, the penalty might apply to a group or an individual and in many cases there was no escape. At those times, my job was to ensure that the punishment fit the crime and nothing more (perhaps even a tiny bit less, if I could manage it).

That’s why, last week, I was so stunned to read the story of our colleagues from the mechanics course in industrial engineering and management. They are having to repeat their exam, because the university has somehow lost their exam papers. There really can’t be any justice in having to take resit exam because the university fails to administrate the exam properly AFTER it’s been answered.

I’ve seen exams repeated for a lot of reasons. Usually, the student didn’t do well enough the first time and needed to repeat. That’s fair enough. Sometimes the answers were discussed during the exams or the answer key was shared beforehand and there needs to be a repeat by some students to uphold academic integrity. That’s understandable. Neither is the case here.

Unless it’s proven students somehow stole the exam, it cannot be that they must resit

What’s happened in this case is the university has failed to uphold its end of the bargain. The students have respected the exam process, acted with integrity and completed the exams properly. The university has let down academic integrity by losing the papers and thus not providing grades. The university needs to acknowledge this and offer a solution that recognises the effort of the students.

In the statements I’ve read about this, those investigating take their task very serious, but it’s definitely not their responsibility it happened and no one knows what went wrong. But it doesn’t really matter exactly who the university wants to pin the blame on. Unless it’s somehow proven students stole them from the guarded room, it cannot be that students must resit to solve the issue.

We all understand that assessment needs to take place in some regard to get academic credit, but there is nothing right about asking students to re-take a whole exam because the university has failed to uphold their end of the agreement. The programme directors and exam committee have to see sense, be flexible and ask the students what solution can work to satisfy everyone.

The punishment must fit the crime and it’s not the students who must pay this debt.

NIALL TORRIS

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