The omens, it’s fair to say, were not good ahead of Trinity’s first-ever set of Christmas exams, but most students would’ve had faith that things would at least run on time in Simmonscourt Hall of the RDS this week.
In this expectation, however, they were sorely – and grievously – disappointed.
The College could hardly have imagined, when it proposed a dramatic restructuring of undergraduate education, that the end result would be many students, consigned to three exams within 24 hours, feeling resigned to failing at least one.
This was the mood that pervaded the College in the weeks preceding the exams, with society engagement taking a nosedive and students reporting “massive stress”. It’s no exaggeration to say that the tension was palpable across campus.
After all this, the very least you could hope for is that Trinity would uphold its side of the bargain and run a seamless exam period.
It was not to be. Instead, students arriving in the RDS were herded into a glorified barn – replete with straw on the ground and the smell of horses in the air – to complete their exams. A dodgy announcement system and the vastness of the venue did not make things any easier.
The worst moment, however, came on Thursday evening when over a thousand students were left standing around for nearly two hours after a seating plan error. Sarcastic cheers rang out when students were eventually allowed back in to sit their exams, with hundreds stuck in Simmonscourt until after 9pm. Some students were back less than 12 hours later to sit another exam.
To reach for a positive, one group did emerge from the rubble looking well: Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union. With a visible presence in Simmonscourt, a constant stream of useful information on its social media, and even visits to the library by Ents Officer David Flood (dressed, appropriately, as Santa), students could at least rely on their union for reliable help when they needed it.
In early February, this Editorial Board wrote prophetically that the new exam season would “only see students suffer”. Ten months later, it seems this was a dose of realism Trinity failed to heed, leaving students scrambling to perform under difficult circumstances.