A standardised ‘mitigating circumstances’ policy is to be introduced at the University following criticism of the lack of coherent guidelines for those who were unable to return to the University after heavy snowfall at the beginning of term.
The snow, which fell up to 12 inches in some areas, left many stranded, without viable transport options to return safely back to York. However, the lack of a standardised ‘mitigating circumstances’ policy meant that many students were left in confusion, with different departments releasing inconsistent advice.
University Press Officer, David Garner, stated: “A standardised mitigating circumstances policy for the University is under consideration. We are aiming to introduce the new policy in 2010. Its introduction may have to be phased, however, to allow programmes in departments to change over to the new modular scheme.”
Confusion was rife for some as a statement released by the University stated: “While we expect students to make every reasonable effort to return to University by the start of term on 11 January, your safety is paramount and if you have reason to believe this will be put at risk you should not travel.” However, another email sent by the Mathematics department gave students clear instructions that “if the travel advice is ‘travel only if your journey is essential’ then we consider that getting to exam counts as an ‘essential journey’.”
“Surely the University should have some uniform policy in situations like this?” University of York first-year Chemistry student
Students have voiced anger at what one first-year Chemistry student termed as “exam attendance being put above student welfare”. He added: “It’s pretty ridiculous that some students felt forced to return for exams, despite the hazardous conditions, while others were given the option of taking their exams a couple of days later. Surely the University should have some uniform policy in situations like this?”
Another second-year student, who also preferred to remain anonymous, commented that it showed a “definite lack of organisation and communication by the University that such chaos was caused by a bit of snow.”
It remains unclear as to why the University had not put together a ‘mitigating circumstances’ policy before this term, as it is standard procedure for academic institutions.
Charlie Leyland, YUSU Academic Affairs Officer, commented: “A good, strong relationship with the University and a University which is sympathetic to student needs, welfare, and principles of higher education has been the most important thing to us in lobbying for change. In the past year I have worked on a number of areas with the University to standardise areas which need to be standardised: penalties for late submission, academic misconduct guidelines, timeliness of feedback, and mitigating circumstances is another and probably the most complex so it’s taken a little longer.”
Anyone affected by this in the future should contact their Head of Department until further notice.