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“Stuff happens”: bomb scare (or not) during Law exam

Andrew Bell reports on the most exciting thing to happen in Corporations Law this year

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On Tuesday this week the Quadrangle was evacuated, disrupting the majority of the fourth year law cohort as they sat their Corporations Law paper. Honi understands that at least one other exam was also interrupted. While initial rumours suggested it was a bomb scare, emails from the faculty have indicated that the disruption was simply a fire alarm.

The examination had been running for approximately twenty minutes, which means many students had read some portion of the true and false questions. Once the MacLaurin Hall was evacuated, a number of students consulted each other and their notes for the answers. Some left on the assumption that the examination would be abandoned.

According to students present, when the threat was cleared, Corporations Law lecturer Fady Aoun advised the students that while they officially had to complete their exams as usual, the paper would ‘probably’ be re-sat and that it should be treated as practice under supervised conditions. Before the examination had finished the Faculty circulated an email which stated that there would be no re-sit of the examination. While some students in a smaller classroom were informed that the exam would be their final one with an hour to go, the majority of students sitting the exam in the MacLaurin Hall received no such warning. Honi attempted to reach Aoun for comment but was unsuccessful.

The concerns of the students centred on the integrity of the examination, which was closed-book and the sole assessment for the subject. Several students reported that they found it difficult to commit to a three hour exam that would in all probability not count. Many students have contacted the Faculty. One student who was sitting the examination advised Honi that some are planning to launch a formal complaint.

“May I advise you – one lawyer to another – that you choose your words very carefully and consider the imputations in anything that you write in complaint. You risk defaming diligent members of our staff by your intemperate expression.”

The course coordinator, Professor Jennifer Hill, dismissed the seriousness of the concerns: “Although we had concerns that some students had discussed the examination paper and consulted notes during the evacuation time, the Dean, Pro-Dean and relevant lecturers decided that this did not create a sufficiently serious risk to the exam’s integrity to warrant a completely new and rescheduled exam.”

This decision is in tension with the standard University evacuation policy: “If at any point during the waiting period the examination conditions deteriorate or the examination itself is compromised, the examination is deemed to be abandoned.”

The Dean of the Law School, Professor Joellen Riley, added in an email response to students that “the markers are all experienced, and can be trusted to take into account that this test was completed under disrupted circumstances when they are grading.” But the practicalities of this are unclear, given the advice given to students regarding a resit was inconsistent. An individual response to a student was more curt: “May I advise you – one lawyer to another – that you choose your words very carefully and consider the imputations in anything that you write in complaint. You risk defaming diligent members of our staff by your intemperate expression.”

Despite that, a number of students agree with the current approach – especially given the small portion of the examination that had elapsed, and the huge inconvenience associated with another exam.

To others the most perplexing question is why a fourth year law subject was being examined with true and false questions in the first place.

In the words of the Dean: “Stuff Happens”.

Student services counters have been closed all across campus. Art: Rebekah Wright.

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