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April 27th, 2021

Official DSU Statement on In-Person Final Exams for Winter 2021

The Dawson Student Union’s the Dawson Student Union’s Special Committee on In-Person Finals, supported by the Executive Committee unanimously decided at its regular meeting to position itself, once more, against holding in-person final exams at Dawson College. After surveying our membership, we found that 88.49% of students were against in-person finals. As representatives of the student body, we believe that our decision and the colleges must reflect the students’ concerns. With the current state of the pandemic, the college’s decision to maintain in-person exams puts students at increased risk of contracting the Covid-19 virus as well as increases the overall state of anxiety that is already affecting our demographic. It also puts at risk the health of the teachers and staff who must be present in-person during that period. In addition, by sending out a MIO to students on April 26th, which offered to hire them as staff during the exam period, the college has demonstrated that it is not accurately prepared and does not have adequate personnel to host around 3000 students for in-person exams in less than a month.

Over the past two weeks in Montreal, citizens between the age of 20 and 29 were the most affected by new covid cases, with a total of 806 new cases recorded for this age group (1). In addition, 80.9% of new cases are said to be variant cases (2). It is also important to note that, by the end of the semester, students are often running on lack of sleep and therefore, weakened immune systems. Keeping in mind that youth will be the last age group to be vaccinated, it is essential to understand that even if safety measures were to be put in place, in-person exams would still increase the risk for students to contract COVID-19 and its variants (of which we know little about). A study also found that 12 to 25% of the population do not self-isolate when having the virus (3). We cannot take the risk of bringing people who have the virus into the college.

In addition, the state of students’ mental wellbeing is at risk by holding in-person exams. As of February 2021, youth’s mental health was the most affected by the pandemic with 63% of Canadians between the age of 18 and 34 reporting “feeling increased stress or anxiety” (4). Also, the end of the semester is always a hard period for students, and exam week particularly. It is illogical to ask that already stressed students come do their exams, which are worth half of their grade, in an anxiety inducing environment. Students should not have to worry about anything else than acing their exams, yet they will have to worry about their health and the health of their family if these take place at the college. For first-year students, these exams would also be the first evaluations ever done on campus. Knowing that “anxiety (…) can negatively impact the quality of our thinking” (5), this environment could undermine the academic performance of students.

To conclude, the situation greatly alarms our organization and its membership. Therefore, on behalf of the student body, we request that the College not hold exams in-person. This request is supported by the majority of Dawson students (6). While we understand the concerns surrounding academic integrity, these cannot outweigh in any way the health of the students, faculty members and staff that will be present on campus during these weeks. We have been tested online all semester. Those grades are no less valid than the ones we would get from in-person evaluations.

Finally, “research findings reveal that when there is ambiguity of scientific knowledge, such as with COVID-19, organizations should not await clarity but instead assume responsibility from the start and act accordingly. (…) there is no such thing as being too cautious; optimism during a crisis is not the best approach” (7).

According to a survey that was sent out to the DSU’s membership on April 22nd and that received over 5000 signatures