University senate prohibits food during final exams

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The University of Waterloo senate has passed an amendment to the exam regulations that prohibits students from bringing food to final exams.</p>

According to the motion presented to senate May 14, the change in regulation was introduced to address two issues. The first reason given was to reduce distractions, noting that both the noise and smell of the food could pose a distraction to other students. Secondly, the change was made to reduce the potential for unauthorized aids. Due to the same concern regarding academic integrity, water must be in a clear container with no labels.

Ray Darling, the university registrar, explained that discussions on this regulation change were first had in May 2014. This was triggered by a formal complaint from a student who was distracted by someone eating food while writing an exam in the PAC. While the university has heard complaints before, this was the first formal complaint they had received.

“Given the fact that Waterloo is committed to improving the integrity of our final examinations, [the formal complaint] presented an opportunity for us to respond to the student’s concerns, and at the same time advance the integrity of the administration of final exams here at Waterloo,” said Darling.

The rationale presented to senate mentioned that the regulation changes had been presented to several committees with student representation and had not encountered major objections.

“Obviously for us academic integrity is always a very important concern; we want to make sure that there is a fair and level playing field for all students,” Stephane Hamade, Feds vice-president education said. “So when we heard about students who felt like there were significant distractions from other people eating in exams, we felt that this might be a reasonable thing to happen. But we did make sure that those students who may have dietary needs or may have low blood sugar would be taken care of. That was something that we gave as very, very quick feedback, that students who did have health concerns would be taken care of.”

A survey done by UW to inform its decision found that it was one of two universities in Ontario that allows food during the writing of final exams.

Water is still allowed, and special accommodations can be made through AccessAbility Services, at least two weeks before the start of the exam period.

In regards to accommodations, Darling explained, “We don’t anticipate a large number of students who’ll need accommodation since we’ll have provisions in place whereby students can ask a proctor to escort them into the hallway to allow them to [have] a quick bite if needed.

“Long hours of study, low blood sugar … there are reasons why it may be necessary for a student to request a nutrition break. However, we don’t foresee many who’ll need special accommodations that will allow the student to consume food continuously throughout the exam.”

This new regulation comes into force immediately and will be applicable to final examinations for the spring term.

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