Departments must cut essay bureaucracy to relieve students’ stress

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By Jack Price-Darbyshire, Third Year Politics and Philosophy

My time as a student in SPAIS has been full of bureaucracy and little empathy following easy essay-submission mistakes. This strict rule following needs to stop to relieve students' stress.

What I have found to be one of the most unnecessary stresses in my time at university has been the pointless strictness of rules and severeness of punishments surrounding assignments. Although obviously not of the biggest of stresses, it is one that is over the top and easily and uncontroversially rectifiable.

For instance, in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS), when it comes to word count a person only has to go a single word over on an essay to lose five whole marks.

Word counts exist for obvious reasons but such a strict cut off point that results in one extra word losing you half a grade seems unjustifiable. It would make far more sense to give a 10 per cent lee-way and cut out the needless stress of desperately trying to cut down the last few words to hit a rigid word count.

Late submissions also face losing you 10 marks if they are up to 24 hours late.

This is an understandable punishment when it is simply the case that you did not do your essay in time. However, what is I feel unfair, is that the department provides no flexibility regarding accidental late submissions.

By third year of course you should know to check your email to make sure your essay has been received, however, on the off chance there is a mess-up in the submission of your essay, and you do not check, then a simple admin error will take your whole assignment down a grade.

the staff at SPAIS seem more concerned with overzealously following these rules than on the actual quality of your work

This is arguably your own fault and should result in some punishment, but 10 marks for not checking an email seems unjustifiable. When it can mean the difference in a grade it can also cause a lot of unnecessary stress.

What adds to this is the fact the staff at SPAIS seem more concerned with overzealously following these rules than on the actual quality of your work.

As in my experience I have been unable to find any way of appealing any of these issues and instead have been bashed about by bureaucracy. What is very annoying is that even if you can provide evidence that you have not modified your essay since before the deadline you still face the same punishment.

Of course, I am not suggesting there should be no deadlines or unlimited words counts, just some understanding and flexibility when there are good reasons to be.

The problem is SPAIS is excessively rigid and deceives itself that this is fair as it is how they deal universally with students in their department. However just because it is how they treat everyone it does not make it just.

Blindly following rules, rather than being empathetic to specific situations results in a feeling that the department lacks concern for you as an individual

Therefore, although to some it may seem like a small point, I feel one easy way SPAIS could help alleviate a lot of unnecessary stress is to be more understanding with students and their assessments. Blindly following rules, rather than being empathetic to specific situations results in a feeling that the department lacks concern for you as an individual.

Some may disagree with this and feel a punishment is fair for going over the word count and for an accidental late submission. However again, while this may be the case, I feel that the punishments are far too severe and enforced with too strict a cut off point.

Ultimately, I see no reason why more leeway could not be given without causing any real controversy.

Simply creating an appeal process where students can be heard and can justify their case would, I believe, make students feel a lot better, as at least they would be heard. Especially when the alternative is being passed around a bureaucracy that seems disinterested in hearing your concerns at every level – only leaving you in an avoidable stressful situation where you feel helpless and unimportant to the department.

Featured image: Unsplash/Green Chameleon

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