UCDSU President Conor Anderson and Welfare Officer Ruairí Power met with the Registrar and Deans on Wednesday to discuss new COVID-19 aids for students. The proposed accommodations include waiving resit fees, uncapped resit grades, and the automatic right to resit an assessment or exam in August. The College Tribune met with Ruairí Power to discuss how the meeting went, his rationale for pursuing these measures, and the likelihood of their passing.
Module Resit and Repeat Fees
At the forefront of this movement is the waiving of resit fees. Currently, fees for module resits stand at €180, while repeating a module will cost €230. Citing the fact that both University College Cork and Trinity have waived resit fees for students, Power doesn’t see “the rationale for not bringing it in.” He noted that “the financial ramifications of Covid-19 have seriously exacerbated people’s ability to pay.” Power continued: “The students who are possibly struggling with finances or loss of family income because of Covid, that’s all compounded […] they should be getting accommodations from the university.”
He also spoke to the fact that, while Covid has certainly worsened the financial impact of resit fees, this is an ongoing issue: “The problems always existed pre-Covid, they have been exacerbated and compounded now, and that’s why the management team needs to take stock of the fact that there are a significant number of students that do seem to be impacted.”
“Mass Organisation of Students” Needed to Evidence Struggles
The difficulty with bringing in these measures appears to be one of evidencing students’ struggles. When I asked how likely it was that resit fees would be waived, Power made the caveat that it is highly unlikely “without mass organisation of students.” The way to do this, he said, is for students to speak up directly about their financial situation, by getting in touch with the SU. He emphasised that, with any campaign, “it doesn’t matter how well constructed our arguments are, they are very easily ignored if they are not backed up by significant engagement from students.”
Further accommodations beyond the waiving of resit fees are seemingly even more difficult to justify in management’s eyes. In relation to the removal of capped resits and the right to retake exams, Power was not optimistic at management’s response: “I would be concerned that from what we heard today, the management team do not consider that to be necessary, and it doesn’t seem to be something that’s supported by the data because students on aggregate from those preliminary results seem to be doing better … we can still push for it but the legitimacy of this is much tricker.” So how can students evidence their need in this manner? Power advises students to start as early as possible, by getting in touch with student advisors, applying for IX grades if needed, and communicating with their lecturers.
Management’s attitude, overall, seems to be one with “a degree of sympathy”; they are, however, expecting these demands to be evidenced and backed up by students. The SU will now consult with students before making a formal submission of requests to the UMT; if this is not well received, “it will require, certainly, a lot of pressure being put on the UMT.”
Rosie Roberts Kuntz – Assistant News Editor