Why is McGill Holding Exams in a Public Cinema?

15 Apr, 2013

An email from Chief Invigilator Andrea Emrick informed many students on Saturday that they are scheduled to write one or more exams in a rather unusual location: the Cineplex Scotiabank Theatre. “Due to planned construction on Pine Avenue scheduled by the city of Montreal, exams that would normally have been scheduled in the gym have been relocated due to safety and noise concerns,” Emrick explains.

Many affected students are incredulous at the announcement and question the appropriateness of the choice. One image satirizing the decision, created by Alex Nguyen and posted on the popular Facebook page “Spotted: McGill Library,” has racked up over 1,200 likes in just 16 hours.

According to Kathleen Massey, McGill’s Registrar and Executive Director of Enrolment Services, other locations were considered. The possible on-campus locations included New Residence Hall and Timmins Auditorium.

Off-campus options were also evaluated before the decision was made to hold exams at Scotiabank Theatre. “We considered borrowing space from local CEGEPs and from other universities such as Concordia and UQAM, but they needed their space for exams or other purposes,” Massey noted. “[These locations were] too far away to make travelling back and forth practical for students, or these options did not have enough seating for our needs.”

Other possible locations included several hotels in the local area and the Palais des Congrès. “The Palais is too far away and the hotels, such as the Holiday Inn, were too expensive for our budget and did not have enough seating available for the entire exam period,” remarked Massey.

Certain variables were taken into consideration when comparing the different options. “[We wanted to ensure] consistent exam conditions for a single exam across multiple locations so that students will have a consistent experience,” Massey explained. Furthermore, the administration wanted to “minimize the geographical distribution of the exams across rooms, buildings, and campus to ensure there is reasonable distance for students to get from one exam to another and maintain the integrity of the exam process.” Other considerations included controlling certain costs such as “space, staffing and logistics” as well as ensuring that the “date range of the exam period remains the same.”

Upon arrival to Cineplex, students will be met by both Cineplex staff and Exams Office personnel. As with all other McGill exams, students must present their McGill ID to gain access to the theatre they will be writing in. “The exam schedule will indicate the theater number where your exam will be held,” Emrick outlines in the e-mail.

For those writing exams in Cineplex, students are given rather unconventional instructions. “Upon entering the exam room, you will pick up a tablet to be used as your exam writing surface, which will fit securely and easily to the chair by attaching to the cup-holder,” Emrick writes. “Students will not be allowed to keep personal items at your seat.” As a result, it was suggested that students writing their exams at Cineplex leave all items not necessary for the exam at home.

The e-mail concludes with a small reminder to students about the nature of the public space. “We are not the only patrons of the Cineplex during this final exam period. Proceed directly to your exam room upon arriving at the theater and follow the instructions of your invigilator.”

Meanwhile, the student response is ongoing and oftentimes hilarious as the McGill community makes light of this unusual situation. “Bring a pencil, calculator, and your Scene card,” suggests McGill student Michael Golfi. Casey Adams, U3 Political Science, sums up the response of many students: “I wasn’t expecting that a ‘world class education’ would ever include the phrase ‘please attach your desks to your cupholders.’”

Image created by Alex Nguyen

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