All Posts Tagged With: "exam anxiety"
University dean suspended, Christmas cards for criminals and more Ikea monkey
1. Your obligatory Darwin the monkey news roundup: In a little over two days since his spontaneous romp through a Toronto Ikea parking lot, the rhesus macaque monkey has achieved international celebrity, even getting the Daily Mail treatment usually reserved for footballers’ wives. Darwin is headed for a sanctuary northeast of Toronto, but the Canadian Press reports that his owner wants him back. Enough monkey business – get back to studying.
2. The University of Windsor announced Monday that education dean Clinton Beckford has been suspended “in recognition of an academic integrity breach involving plagiarism.” University of Windsor president Alan Wildeman told the Windsor Star Beckford will return as “a contributing member of the faculty,” though not as dean, but wouldn’t say how the incident came to the university’s attention. Beckford’s unpaid suspension will last until June 30, 2014.
Prof. tried to fight award of PhD to student who failed exams
The University of Manitoba says that the ongoing fight with Professor Gabor Lukács has been settled. Although specifics will remain confidential, Lukács will no longer work for the University.
The statement reads, in part: “The University has rescinded all disciplinary actions against Professor Lukács (including reprimand, suspension and denial of increment). All outstanding legal proceedings between the parties are terminated. The parties have also agreed that it is to their mutual benefit to end the employment relationship.”
Lukács was a math professor at U of M. He sued the university because his Dean gave a student who had failed exams a degree, citing the student’s “extreme exam anxiety,” which was considered a disability. A Winnipeg court found that Lukács did not have standing to challenge the Dean.
Lukács was suspended in Oct. 2010 for allegedly breaching the privacy of the student in question. At the time, university president David Barnard accused him of “having engaged in a pattern of behaviour with regard to [the] student which the university considers to be harassment.”
I forgot to bring my book. To the open book exam. To the only exam that actually counted.
There are all kinds of scenarios you see frequently where seemingly otherwise-normal people go completely insane: sporting riots, Black Friday, anytime free food is introduced into a newsroom. In the past, upon viewing these events, I would think to myself “Self, in such a situation, you would not succumb to the crazies. You would likely rise above the desire to go nuts about something that doesn’t matter.”
Then I went through first-year law school exams, upon which I learned that I am apparently completely the kind of person who goes batty when faced with things that mostly don’t matter and even more insane when faced with something that does.
At UVic, the 1Ls had six exams in a 12-day period: Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday for two weeks. Here’s the thing: Five of those exams didn’t count. Not technically, anyway. At UVic, the year-long courses all have midterms from which the grade will only count if it’s better than the grade you get on your final. These are dubbed “help, not hurt” exams, a moniker I take issue with having gone through the “help, not hurt” exam period.
I stopped exercising. I stopped eating. I didn’t consciously try to stop sleeping, but I did anyway. For two weeks, no matter what time I went to bed, I would wake up hourly, occasionally actually sitting bolt upright, with my brain a jumble of different law-related thoughts. Not even fully formed thoughts, either, so it’s not like these nocturnal interruptions were helpful. It was only ever just little, unconnected fragments of thoughts from all seven of my classes.
Offer, acceptance, consideration…Multiple Access v. McCutcheon…trespass torts…three doctrinal requirements to complete a gift…Oakes test…
Et cetera. On a loop. Every night for two weeks.
Of course, there was one exam that did count. Our Law, Legislation and Policy course was only half a year, so the December exam was the final, the one that one prof described as “just hurt.” And, of course, it was for that exam that I did the craziest thing I did in all of the two-week exam period, possibly ever.
I forgot to bring my book. To the open book exam. To the only exam that actually counted.
Considering my panic level at any given point in those two weeks was generally situated at around a 7, the discovery that I would have to write a three-hour final that actually counted without my coursebook (which, by the way, is where I made all my notes) almost caused a stroke. Which is a really great physical and mental place to be in, by the way, just before you write an exam.
The only good thing to say about this is that once my blood started flowing again and I emitted a sound not unlike a cat being strangled, literally everyone around me who figured out what had happened to me simultaneously reached with their one hand to their own book and with their other hand to their wallet to get out their copy card so that I could run to the library and copy as much of their book as I could before the exam. Seriously, there were like 8 different people performing the exact same motion, some of whom I don’t even really know. It was a balletic example of the kindness and generosity of UVic law students. It was actually really heartwarming.
Of course, it also didn’t change how screwed I was. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say it did not go well. Try and at least learn from me, anyone who is reading this, to check your backpack twice before leaving for an exam so that some good might come of this. And if you have any tips on how to better survive the next exam period — the one in April that actually all counts — please, for the love of Christmas, pass them on.
Students put way too much pressure on themselves during exam season
There is no time of year where students are more neurotic, frustrated, and just absolutely miserable to be around than exam season.
Along with energy drink sales, one thing that seems to skyrocket around this time of year is the number of times the fire alarm goes off on my campus. On average, I’d say the alarm goes off once, or maybe twice a month at the University of Manitoba. Yet during exam season that number probably doubles, or even triples. During one of my exams last year, the alarm went off three times in a row.
I may not be able to prove this, but I doubt that the number of fires suddenly begins to increase on campus when the end of the semester rolls around. It’s more likely that the increase is the work of students, who feel like they haven’t learned anything all semester and are pulling the alarm in a desperate attempt to get out of their exam. Or, they have the sense of humor of a sixth grade kid, and thought it would be a hilarious prank. Apparently wasting your classmates’ time, and the time of the fire department, is side-splitting for some people.
Pulling the fire alarm has got to be the worst exam escape plan ever. It doesn’t even get you “out” of the exam. Unless the building is actually on fire and students are forced to go home, everyone shuffles back inside the exam room after the fire department has finished inspecting the building. The professor tacks on more minutes to the time you’re required to stay, and everyone finishes the exam as planned. All that’s accomplished by pulling the alarm is being forced to stay longer in the exam room, and severely pissing off your fellow students.
I realize the majority of students don’t see pulling the fire alarm as a viable alternative to writing their exam, but the notion that some students do serves as a testament to the amount of pressure students put on the outcome of their exams.
When those exams are worth 30, 40, even 50 percent of your grade, it can put a whole lot of weight on one test, and make pulling that little red leaver seem like not such a bad idea. Especially if you’ve got law school applications, grad school applications, or medical school applications riding on your GPA.
That being said, how much time does anyone spend thinking about their exam after they’ve finished writing it? For the average student, probably not a whole lot. It may feel like your entire future is weighing on the outcome of one little test, but in reality, it’s just a test. There are so many more worthwhile things to stress out over, and to pull the fire alarm for.
Prof suspended after taking university to court over waiving academic requirements for doctoral student
Earlier this month Gabor Lukacs received two letters from University of Manitoba president David Barnard. One invited the assistant professor of mathematics to a dinner in acknowledgement of his teaching excellence award. The other informed him that he was being suspended without pay.
Lukacs is accused of violating the university’s privacy regulations with respect to the identity of a PhD student who had been asked to withdraw from the program after twice failing a comprehensive exam. The student later successfully appealed that decision to the Dean of Graduate Studies, John Doering, who, in fall 2009, waived the requirement that the student take the exam at all. The student is said to suffer from “extreme exam anxiety.”
For all of our coverage of this story, please click here.
After months of attempting to use university channels to have Doering’s decision reversed, Lukacs filed an application in late September at Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench. The application calls for Doering’s decision to be quashed and for an affirmation that the dean had no authority to resolve the issue without consulting an appeal committee of academics. Lukacs alleges that Doering violated Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations and the University of Manitoba Act.
Although the student’s identity was included in Lukacs original court application, at a hearing Thursday morning a judge ordered a publication ban on the name.
When outlining the reasons for Lukacs’ suspension, Barnard cites the court application directly in his letter, a copy of which has been obtained by Maclean’s. “These documents include unauthorized reference to a student’s personal and personal health information,” Barnard wrote. The university president calls Lukacs “insubordinate” and further accuses him of “having engaged in a pattern of behaviour with regard to [the] student which the university considers to be harassment.”
Several people contacted for this story, including Dean Doering and certain professors in the Department of Mathematics, either declined to speak to the matter, did not respond to a request to be interviewed, or redirected Maclean’s to the university’s Director of Public Affairs, John Danakas. Danakas declined to speak to the specifics of the case, citing “personnel” and “privacy” issues, but agreed to address university policy in general terms.
In a written response, Danakas stated that all university employees are bound by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the Personal Health Information Act. “In general personal information about a student, with or without the name attached, may only be disclosed to other university employees who absolutely need to know the information for the purposes of performing other duties,” he wrote.
As for the powers of the dean, Danakas stated that “It is university practice to attempt to resolve appeals at the lowest possible level. This could include a dean achieving an informal resolution with a student after a broad consultation.”
Lukacs, who says he did not meet the student in person until he served the student with court papers, says he is motivated by a desire to protect academic standards. “I have a personal interest in protecting the integrity of the PhD program in Mathematics, because it affects my reputation whether I am a member of a respectable department or a diploma-mill,” he stated via email.
When asked to respond to allegations that he violated the student’s privacy, Lukacs defended himself: “The right for privacy cannot trump the need for review of decisions made without jurisdiction, or decisions that are patently unreasonable.”
According to emails and other documents included with an affidavit filed by Lukacs, the dispute began in March 2009 when the student failed for the second time a comprehensive exam in analysis. Under regulations outlined by the Faculty of Graduate Studies the student was required to withdraw from the PhD program.
In July, after an unsuccessful appeal to an associate dean, the student appealed the withdrawal to Dean Doering on the basis of suffering from “extreme exam anxiety.” Doering reinstated the student and requested that the Graduate Studies Committee in the Department of Mathematics devise an alternate examination option.
The committee, after consulting with disability services, agreed to allow the student to retake the exam with more time and relaxed conditions.
In late August 2009, Doering rejected that proposal and requested that the student be given an oral exam. When the graduate studies committee did not agree to those terms, Doering waived the exam requirement altogether.
Lukacs first became involved with the case in October 2009, after he was elected to replace a member of the graduate studies committee who had resigned, allegedly in protest of the dean’s decision.