BY SALONEE MISTRY
Monash University fifth year law student Stella Patrick* has spent the past few days of SWOT-VAC running around, trying to get the front camera of her phone fixed, instead of studying.
This follows from an email by the Faculty of Law on June 10 informing students of technological requirements for their examination, such as two working devices and a stable network connection.
Ms Patrick said she has “no choice” but to spend money to fix her phone camera so she can fulfil the requirements to sit her exams.
“I am terrified that my internet is going to cut off and end my Zoom call, and what implications that will have with reference to academic integrity,” she said.
“Exams are stressful as it is and there is no reason for this unnecessarily added stress when there are alternatives available.”
The Faculty of Law’s email informed law students they will use their computers to sit the exam, however they will require a smartphone or other device to ensure supervision through Zoom.
A petition started by law students to ‘respectfully register [their] distress, frustration and anger’ at the Faculty of Law’s decision has garnered more than 1000 signatures.
According to the petition, the technological requirements were “unexpected and very different to all previous information released by Monash”.
“It is unfair and unacceptable to presume that all students have access to such devices, or the ability to buy new devices for the exams.”
Fourth year law student registered with Disability Support Services, Kevin Oborne*, said he does not feel secure about his upcoming exams.
He attributes his insecurity to the “very loud” environment he lives in, in addition to an old phone with a “poor battery” he will be using as his second working device.
“I should be studying at this time and not begging or fighting with the university to help us,” Mr Oborne said.
“The faculty is assuming the worst in students with reference to exams and it’s extremely insulting - they are valuing academic ranking over student welfare, which is absurd.”
He added the lack of communication about the finer details surrounding the examination has created a lot of stress and anxiety for many students.
Academic Board representative James Desmond said students have serious accessibility concerns regarding the Faculty of Law's email announcement.
“We will be seeking clarification at both the steering committee and the next board meeting,” Mr Desmond said.
“We've received a number of reports from concerned students, and we seek to clarify the university's position and advocate the student voice as we have so far all semester," he said.
The Monash Uni: Support Your Students group, created to support students through the COVID-19 crisis, published results this morning from a survey released on June 16 asking law students for their concerns.
Of the 192 students surveyed, it was found 93 per cent of respondents "feel unsupported" by the Faculty of Law during the semester one exam period.
Forty six per cent of the respondents have actively considered changing universities, with some having already applied for transfers.
Additionally, 94 per cent believe their internet will be inadequate to sustain the duration of their exams.
A Monash University spokesperson said several law units require supervised examinations to replicate a real-world environment and ensure students satisfy the threshold learning outcomes.
“The ability to respond to complex legal issues in a time-sensitive environment is an essential skill for graduates to ensure they are prepared for a career beyond their graduation,” the spokesperson said.
“Remote monitoring is being used to protect students by removing the possibility of some students gaining an unfair advantage over others and undermining everyone else's hard work.”
The spokesperson said the university has recognised the challenges of off-campus learning by allowing flexible examination start times, extended durations, and spaces for students to sit their examinations on campus where required.
Applications to sit exams on-campus have closed, however students should contact Monash Connect if their home spaces become unsuitable.
“The University, through its eSolutions team, has been providing equipment to students at no cost for their exams - this includes a second device when this is necessary for studies and assessments,” the spokesperson said.
Students who experience serious disruption during their exams may apply for special consideration. Students may also get in touch with Monash Connect to arrange an on-Campus exam and request a device at monash.edu/connect/contact-us or (03) 9902 6011.
*Pseudonyms have been used for all the interviewees at their request, for fear of repercussions