By Shivan Micoo
Sociology professor Bob Argue’s students will be forced to write their final exam in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC), despite complaints he made loud and clear to administration.
Argue voiced his complaints in a widely distributed e-mail, sending it to his SOC 505 class as well as Ryerson’s top administrators, including President Sheldon Levy, Registrar Keith Alnwick, Dean of the faculty of arts Carla Cassidy and Secretary of academic council Diane Schulman.
Alnwick and Cassidy were singled out in the e-mail and accused of not addressing Argue’s concerns when he confronted them on the issue.
“You both had precisely the same facial expression: somewhere between sheepish and deer-in-headlights. Both your nearly identical explanations of the situation avoided what to me is the fundamental question: different types of exams require different settings,” Argue wrote.
In the e-mail, Argue expressed his discontent with having his sociology of sport class write its exam at the convention centre and demanded that administration apologize to his class.
Argue said the MTCC was an inappropriate location for his small class to write their essay exam in, being far from the “calm, quiet atmosphere” he wants for his students.
Terry Gillin, chair of the sociology department, declined comment. Administrators to whom Argue’s e-mail was addressed were contacted but refused to comment. Schulman said the university is sorely lacking space for exams.
She said approximately 1,700 final exams are held every semester, and the gyms can only hold 500 students at a time. “As the student population of Ryerson grows, so does the need for appropriate examination space. There is just not enough. Many of the large rooms on campus are tiered and not conducive to the integrity of the exam process,” she said.
The MTCC rooms can hold 2,000 students at a time and is convenient because it is connected to Union Station. Schulman disagreed with Argue’s charge that it is a noisy atmosphere.
“The environment is quiet and respectful of a student’s need to give attention to what they are writing,” she said.
Argue says he recognizes the issues administration faces but maintains that small classes should get to write in small rooms with fewer distractions.
“If you’re sitting in the presence of 2,000 other people, just simply the rustling of papers and the noise of breathing is going to be distracting,” said Argue. “Then you have people getting up and down and all those retired vice-principals barking orders and announcements incessantly. Most of those announcements won’t be relevant to you but they’ll break your concentration.”
Argue said other professors have complained about having their exams scheduled in the MTCC too, but never tried to move locations.
Argue’s course is not the only one being affected by this decision. Some of his students cited similar concerns.
Heather Kelly, a third-year finance student and a member of Argue’s SOC 505 class, said that she and her classmates were “given the exam question up front” and are allowed to take a “cheat sheet” (an outline of the essay) into the exam with them.
“Because I could basically write the essay at home and bring it to the exam with me, it doesn’t really make sense for us to be in the convention centre because we don’t need the top security,” Kelly said.
Kelly also raised concerns with asking questions during an exam at the MTCC, saying that the process of speaking with an invigilator before you can speak with a professor “can take precious minutes away from a student writing an exam.”
Argue also said that the decision to hold the exam in the MTCC shows that “fiscal considerations are trumping academic ones.”
He said that it costs Ryerson $16,000 a day to use the MTCC, and that because of this, smaller classes like his are being “shoved” over there in an effort to utilize the space so Ryerson doesn’t lose money.