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Exam Accommodation: Support or Scapegoat?

Exams are horrible. It’s the most horrible time of year right before the most wonderful time of year. It feels like you must suffer for 3-4 weeks before you can be awarded a nice relaxing break with your friends and family. There is so much stress and anxiety, so many sleepless nights, and so many headaches. We all struggle with the immense amount of stress that surrounds exam season, but some of us handle it better than others.

Before last month, I didn’t know too much about exam accommodation. I probably wouldn’t have found out more about it if I didn’t need to get accommodation myself after an injury that prevented me from writing a midterm. Luckily the process was very smooth and everyone was very understanding. Going into that midterm, I expected to be writing with maybe one or two other students, but I was shocked when I saw the number of students writing with accommodation. I recognized many of my classmates there. I was confused why some of them were there in the same room as me. At the time, I was focused on the midterm, but later I was interested to find out.

When I spoke to a friend who also wrote with accommodation, I expressed my shock about the number of students that were present that day. He explained that a lot of them had stress and anxiety. In that moment, I realized that it had never occurred to me that those mental disorders could be accommodated for. I felt stupid for a second, but then it was that moment of awe— that moment when you realize you have more in common with other people than you thought. Having dealt with stress and depression throughout university, it was a “wow moment” to realize that so many other people faced similar problems as me. I was glad that the university was accommodating for this disorder. Apparently, my friend didn’t feel that same.

Talking to more people, I found out quickly that not all students who write with accommodation actually need it. They were using it to get more time to write! I was outraged; I felt cheated. This was unfair to the rest of us. I started thinking, “how was this possible?” I quickly remembered how easy it was for me to get accommodation for my injury. All I had to do was take a form to my doctor, he asked me a couple questions and then signed off on the form. When I was getting accommodation, I was pleased how easy the process had been. It had reduced some of my stress, but now I am thinking: Was the process too simple? Too easy? Should the exam office monitor this more tightly and with more scrutiny? At the same time, why should anyone else’s performance matter to me?  

I am definitely not pleased that something that was put into place to help students that need extra support to be successful is being taken advantage of, but I’m not sure how the university can prevent this. Tighter regulations could help, but they would also make it harder for the students that truly need support to get it.

So, should we accept this unfairness? Definitely not. I’m not sure how we can change this, but this is not right.

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Medical Science and Ivey student at UWO  
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