This year, for the first time, no Trinity student will sit down to take special exams – more commonly known as “super sups” – in the first few weeks of first term.
As part of the Trinity Education Project’s (TEP) sweeping, and often controversial, alterations to all aspects of the undergraduate curriculum, special exams were deemed an inefficiency that College was happy to forego. No other third-level institute in the country offers a third round of exams, and exams that take place when the next academic year has already started do not fit neatly into all-inclusive semesterisation that lies at the core of TEP’s vision.
But in its single-minded pursuit of efficiency and a “streamlined” academic system, Trinity is leaving some of its most vulnerable students behind.
At this point, few Trinity students are alien to the multitude of horror stories about students’ lives being ineptly handled by the College administration – often to disastrous effect. From the cloakroom fiasco during last semester’s exams to Academic Registry errors that have led to students being unable to register, many students would agree that pastoral care isn’t one of Trinity’s strengths.
This made special exams all the more unique: they were a strong symbol of compassion in a university not known for its empathetic dealings with students in need.
It is all too easy to dismiss, particularly in an abstract sense, the necessity of holding a separate set of exams for those who cannot sit the supplemental exams – after all, three separate sessions does sound like quite a few.
But special exams were a recognition that tragedy and illness do not strike in a convenient, controllable manner, and that they most definitely do not helpfully accommodate examination periods.
Students who availed of special exams in the past often did so out of dire medical or personal circumstances. It’s too easy to argue that these students should just take a year off-books, or repeat: many are desperate to rise with their class, and giving them the option to do so was a commendable facility that has now been lost.
It’s a grave shame that several students this year will fall between the cracks.