Statement on the Examination Situation WiSe 2020/21

The 32nd Student Parliament joins the student representatives of the Landau campus in taking the following position on the upcoming examination period:

The current situation is not easy to bear for students and teachers: concerns about one’s own health or that of relatives, social responsibility, more work required for childcare, homeschooling or caring for relatives, financial worries due to the changed job market for part-time jobs, as well as social isolation and psychological stress have accompanied some students for a year, regardless of the examination phase. Some students and teachers have to cope with many of these aspects at the same time. In the course of the third examination phase during CoViD-19, we would like to address the examiners at the Landau campus.

As student representatives, we do not want to seek conflict between teachers and students and perceive each other as antagonists. Rather, we want to look for the best possibilities together. In the course of our work so far, we initially hoped for answers from the state, especially the MWWK. A reaction to the situation of the students during the examination phase from the state policy, above all from the MWWK, initially failed to materialise and then came late: according to the current state of affairs, the planned state ordinance for electronic distance examinations will no longer help us during this examination phase. We have so far pursued and continue to advocate a – primarily legal – solution at this level. In addition, the discussions in the Steering Committee Landau (formerly Task Force Teaching), as well as the actions of the campus management will also not lead to a central and uniform solution. The university management has placed the responsibility in the hands of the institutes and examiners to find solutions that are as suitable as possible. We would have seen advantages in more centralised guidelines, but now we also see the possibility of decentralised solutions that are as fitting and creative as possible.

We are aware that, due to time constraints alone, no blanket solution can be found. We now turn to you as examiners and/or heads of institutes, as you can now make the final decision on the examination format. And please consider the following for these solutions and also consider and include the demands and perspectives of the student representatives in your decision-making process.

The situation of students cannot be described as a single scenario, but we would nevertheless like to draw attention to some key points:

In addition to the burdens we mentioned at the beginning, we would like to draw attention to the very different situations of students: Many students do not currently live in Landau, but have moved back for financial and social reasons. Our students are currently spread all over Germany, and their journey to take part in an attendance examination poses a high risk of infection, especially with public transport. So in addition to the risk during the exam, students must also weigh up this risk when taking a purely attendance-based course. It will be particularly difficult for those students who belong to a risk group themselves or who live together with risk patients in their direct environment. The decision not to take the examination is then inevitably accompanied by an extension of the study time. For this reason, we would like to point out that many students are confronted with the question of whether it is better to study in person at the present time: Progress in studies or health risks for me or others? These students are not helped by the mere offer of face-to-face examinations. We therefore call on you to (also) offer possible alternatives so that these students do not fall through the cracks.

  • The possibility of digital examinations: The framework examination regulations, which were drawn up especially for the time of the SARS-Cov 2 pandemic, stipulate that written examinations (especially written examinations) can also be conducted using electronic means of communication. We are currently observing a trend towards face-to-face examinations in many subjects. We would like to make an urgent appeal to also implement digital examination formats, as they are expressly made possible by the framework examination regulations, and to consider them as a possible alternative to face-to-face examinations, especially during the lock-down. We therefore appeal to the examiners to convert possible examinations. In order to be able to be creative, both the initiative of the examiners and assistance from the departments and the campus management are necessary.

  • The presence examination at a different time: We also suggest offering a second date for presence examinations with a time interval, so that students can decide for themselves whether they want to write the examination at the current time or at a later time, without postponing their studies by an entire semester. This option would also reduce the numbers of students taking an exam at the same time. With lower infection rates, better knowledge of mutations and fewer restrictions, which makes it easier to organise travel to the examination, a presence examination would be justifiable.

  • Communication with students: Students must be relieved of the concern that digital distance examinations would place higher/ disproportionate demands on them compared to face-to-face examinations. The requirements of the examinations must be oriented towards teaching to the same extent as in the past. We also consider it particularly important that students are dealt with transparently. Students need information about the circumstances and arrangements of the examinations in order to decide whether or not to take them. It is equally important that at-risk students are informed in advance about the extent to which special protective measures will be taken for them. We therefore call on all examiners to communicate clear information about the circumstances of the examination and the planned protective measures (both general and for high-risk patients) to the students 7 days before the examination without being asked to do so.

  • The hardship regulation, which is supposed to compensate for disadvantages caused by the pandemic for students who are particularly affected, is very limited by our regular examination regulations, which do not provide for any form of compensation for examinations, and thus disadvantages this group, especially in attendance examinations. Therefore, we demand the introduction of a far-reaching hardship regulation in all examination regulations, as well as in the framework examination regulations. The current situation should be reason enough for us to guarantee possibilities of compensation for disadvantages in cases of hardship, both for this examination phase and for all further examinations.

  • The possibility of changing the form of examination at the request of the student: The addition of further forms of examination in the examination regulations gives students the opportunity to change the form of examination on request. This flexibility would open up access to studies for students again and thus make it much more educationally just. Students who are, for example, high-risk patients, students with children or economically and socially disadvantaged students who are dependent on gainful employment alongside their studies would be able to plan better during the pandemic and complete their examinations earlier if the form is more flexible.

  • The extension of the failed exams rule during the pandemic. This examination phase places a greater burden on students than it would have done with better preparation and planning. Accordingly, we demand a flat-rate increase of one additional failed attempt, which applies to all examinations during the examination phase of the winter semester 20/21.

  • Shortened withdrawal periods up to 24 hours before the start of the examination: We call on the examiners to shorten the individual withdrawal period to 24 hours before the start and thus show goodwill towards the special situation of the students. This is a simple measure that allows students to revise their decision between health and studies at short notice or to take into account short-term changes in their health condition without a visit to the doctor.

  • With the examination phase, the phases of internships and stays abroad are also approaching: With regard to the implementation of the Framework Examination Regulations, we therefore call for the possibility of substitute performance to be implemented instead of external internships and stays abroad. We are receiving more and more reports that the completion of external internships is being insisted on. In some cases, an internship/stay abroad is the last outstanding achievement for the Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. In these cases, the completion of the degree must be made possible, even if the overall social circumstances do not allow for the completion of on-site internships or make the search for an internship extremely difficult or impossible.

  • Finally, we think it is absolutely necessary that in examinations that take place in presence, personnel are responsible for exclusively taking care of the observance of hygiene rules. Both teachers and students are in special situations during examinations, which can lead to hygiene rules being neglected. We see a clear responsibility on the part of the university to take care of these as well as to control their observance. This includes checking the spacing rules, the uninterrupted wearing of masks and the prescribed ventilation.

  • In this context, we demand that the mask requirement be extended to the use of medical masks and that these be made sufficiently available to students and teachers. If it is not possible for individuals to bring these themselves, this must not prevent them from taking their exams.

Finally, we hope that this statement will make the position of the students clear and that it will be a reason for the teachers and the university to adapt the examination period accordingly. Please also include student representatives from departments, student councils or student self-administration in further considerations and planning.

We hope for a good cooperation between examiners and examined and are sure that the respective needs can be complimented.

The statement is the result of a public debate between students with and without mandates as well as the cooperation of several student representatives from the department, AStA, StuPa and Senate. The further use of this paper is expressly desired and intended for both students and teachers for further dissemination.