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"We shouldn't suffer because of their mistake"

"We shouldn't suffer because of their mistake"

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Simone Golob

Exam declared invalid; students are angry

MAASTRICHT. The first-year exam of Quantitative Methods 2 was declared invalid this week, because some students had cheated. Students are outraged, disappointed and angry. Not in the least because the School of Business and Economics changed the rules after the exam, as a result of which ‘insignificant’ little intermediate tests have suddenly become decisive factors in passing or failing the course.

Monday afternoon, immediately after the Board of Examiners at the School of Business and Economics (SBE) had sent the bad news to all 1,200 first-year students, Luca Brablec started an online petition. By now (Tuesday afternoon, 23 June), it has been signed almost two hundred times. The German student of International Business hopes that the Board of Examiners will review its annulment. And not only that. He also finds it painful that the outcome of the so-called ‘quizzes’ – eight multiple-choice questions on mathematics and statistics used during the block to help students get through the material ‘more easily’–  is now suddenly of overriding importance in passing or failing the subject.

His Dutch fellow students Tom van Rixtel and Lotte Ruisaard also find this incomprehensible. Ruisaard: “Those quizzes weren’t even compulsory. They were mainly meant to test yourself. You could earn yourself bonus points on your final grade.” The handbook literally states: “These quizzes are a bonus in the purest sense of the word: you do not lose anything if you do not participate seriously (…).”  The annulment may have been a decision by the Board of Examiners, but the follow-up measures also involve others parties, such as the Education Institute.

Ruisaard passed the QM2 exam, she knew fairly soon after she had finished on 12 June, “but that grade no longer counts. Such a pain, because I had really studied hard. I definitely did not cheat.” And no, she does not have enough bonus points from the quizzes. “I am a couple of points short.” Van Rixtel is in the same boat. Passed QM2, which was then declared invalid, too few bonus points and therefore failed. They may try again on 17 July, during the resit. Van Rixtel: “I did a catch-up course: two long days, five hours on end. Will I have to do that again in July?”

Ruisaard understands “to some extent” that the exam was declared invalid because a group of students committed fraud with chats, but why does not everyone get a new exam? A first chance? This was after all a human error, she says. An SBE employee forgot to set up the randomisation, which is an anti-fraud measure. The idea is that students receive the questions in a different order, which makes it difficult to exchange answers. But now everyone received the same exam. A mistake by the university, Brablec emphasises. “We shouldn’t suffer because of that!” Van Rixtel: “They can’t sort it out and when things go wrong, they put the consequences on us.”

A German second-year student of International Business does not want her name in Observant, for fear of negative consequences: “I do not feel supported by the university at all.” And no, she didn’t cheat, she didn’t even know of the existence of chat groups where answers were exchanged. And yes, she did well in the test. “I now have to pay for a mistake made by the School. This decision is so radical, good-willed students are not taken into account at all. I wish the faculty would issue a statement, saying how to proceed, that there would be room for discussion. But we haven’t heard anything. That is why I have lodged an official complaint.”

Declaring the exam invalid is extra bitter for the second-year student, she explains. “If I don’t pass this subject, I won’t be able to go abroad for the next semester.” Every student has their own story. Brablec is fed up with his GPA (grade point average, the average based on the first attempt of 7 of the 8 subjects of year 1). He gained a high grade for QM2, which would have made his GPA rise tremendously. That was good in view of his future experience abroad: the higher your GPA, the higher your chances are of ending up at the university of your choice.

Block co-ordinator Christian Kerckhoffs does not want to answer questions asked by Observant. He emphasises that the decision of annulment was made by the Board of Examiners and not by him. He sent the same message by e-mail to all the students. 

Wendy Degens, Riki Janssen

Read the interview with Erik de Regt, chair of the Board of Examiners of SBE

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