Student exams alarming

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By Michelle Thompson

Exhausted Ryerson students didn’t need to worry about falling asleep during their winter exams as several fire alarms served as adequate wake-up calls.

Keith Alnwick, Ryerson’s registrar, forward a mass e-mail to Ryerson students last month to inform them of three false fire alarms pulled during last month’s examination period. No one was caught, but if they were, Alnwick promised their punishment would have been severe.

“(Punishment) would have to be determined through due process,” Alnwick said. “As registrar, I would be seeking expulsion of those responsible.”

Ryerson certainly isn’t the only university dealing with students taking drastic measures to avoid writing exams.

In December 2000, 10 bomb threats and several fire alarms caused staff at Queen’s University to take special measures to prevent exams from being disrupted in the future.

The school implemented a range of precautionary measures, including having trained police dogs searching buildings for bombs prior to exams.

Queen’s also closes their underground parking lot during exams to prevent anyone from driving through with explosives.

This year, there were no disruptions during exams.

However, in the past years, Queen’s officials have been unable to apprehend everyone who’s tried to interrupt exams, even with their drastic security measures.

“We have a good idea of who it is, but with no physical evidence, we can’t charge anyone,” said Linda McKeen, exams administrator at Queen’s. “We can’t catch them. They pull an alarm and they’re out the door.”

At York University, officials have come up with their own method of preventing false fire alarms from disturbing students.

Alarms are silenced during exams, and although security said the fire departments are notified, students are not prevented from writing exams unless there is legitimate cause for concern.

In light of its own troubles with disrupted exams, Ryerson is also considering taking special measures to avoid such problems in the future.

“We are evaluating what further steps to take over and above the measures already in place,” Alnwick said.

However, Alnwick admitted doing so would not be easy.

“With close to 1,000 alarm sites in Kerr Hall alone, this is a difficult task.”

Ryerson has been dealing with pulled fire alarm occurrences for a number of years.

According to the Toronto Fire Department, Ryerson is fined $500 every time a fire alarm is pulled as part of a prank.

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