By Jessica Ní Mháirtín
The DIT Snowsports’ annual ski trip has clashed with exams yet again and some students are left without their trip and deposits.
The ski trip for 2018 comes to a total cost of €654. It will take place from January 13th to 20th and is set in the destination of Belle Plagne. Every student that has booked a place has paid a deposit of €130.
With over 500 members, DIT Snowsports is easily one of the biggest groups of clubs and societies. Over the last few years the club has organised an annual ski trip away for their members, however there is one recurring obstacle which is that of exams.
Since the timetable for exams has been published, the Snowsports committee has received emails from both students and academic mentors asking, “why have you done this?” as some exams coincide with the dates booked for the ski trip.
Due to the trip being abroad and consisting of high numbers, the Snowsports club always choose to book through a travel agency. For the committee members, this means organising events on their own time, and in this case, over the summer.
With the process of organisation beginning during the summer months, the Snowsports club must be able to provide a set date to the travel agent as to when they can book the trip for. The annual trip takes place over the Christmas break and with the layout of the academic timetable that students are given at the beginning of the year, it’s very unpredictable as to judge what dates are free from exams.
“When an exam timetable is being created, we have to hire rooms, so it’s about space. It’s making sure we have enough suitable space to sit students. We’d also have to fit in students with disabilities, some of which have individual rooms which is also a tricky thing,” explained Jennifer Farrell, Head of Student Administration.
Ms Farrell continued: “We’re running exams for 20,000 students, and we have a very high number of exams. We also have exams of different lengths and we’d have to facilitate students that need to have additional time.
“We would love to have them[timetables] done earlier in the year but at the moment with the volumes and everything else it’s quite tricky. And at the moment because we’re running off so many different sites, some sites have the space to run the exams within their own sites, but some sites have to hire venues and then we’re tied into that. Obviously when we’re all on one site it will be a lot easier.”
The Snowsports committee have tried contacting the Exam Office and Student Administration during the summer to get the dates of exams but despite their best efforts they have not been able to get the answers they were looking for.
Enda Bolger, an elite sports scholar, has been a committee member for Snowsports for the last two years and he has described the process as “a struggle” due to the uncertainty of the exam dates not being revealed soon enough.
“This reflects badly on us as a committee because it makes us look stupid after booking a trip and convincing people to join the club, after we told them how great it is to be in DIT.
“It now feels like DIT have put unnecessary pressure on us as students of the college. It’s not like we’re trying to get out of doing the exams, we are trying to run a college club and the college haven’t given us any help as far as I’m concerned.
“If you were to ask me, how active have the Exam Office been in terms of help or guidance, I’d say they haven’t been in any way helpful at all. But then the Sports Office I have to say, have been absolutely outstanding and phenomenal as they have stood by us. They have acted as true mentors, Caragh, Herbie, Niamh and Matt.
“The four of those individuals have pulled out every stop they whether that’s been running a lesson or trying to get finances in order, or just general queries on how to run the club. All of them have stood by us and if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be able to run this club.
“We don’t need to know the days that each exam is going to be on, we just need to know what week we can guarantee there are no exams, or no college,” said Mr Bolger.
For what seems like such a simple request from the club, they have still not been able to reach an agreement with the Exams Office or Student Administration. They have also had DITSU involved and there has been no resolution to the issue.
The Exam Office could end up running exams over a two-and-a-half week to a three week period, depending on which way the bank holiday falls. “We’d love to be able to say, ‘we’re just going to run them between this date and this date,’ but that could mean that you have students sitting two exams in one day and we try our best to leave at least a day between each exam,” said Ms Farrell.
“If they[students] have any issues they will contact the Exam Office and to be fair if exams can facilitate them, they will, but it just may not be possible and that’s why we’re saying we can’t commit to it,” she added.
Although Trinity, UCD and DCU are told when they are free from both exams and classes, DIT still cannot provide a reliable, provisional timetable. This was tried last year by the Snowsports committee and the dates of exams were then changed, which resulted in students again having to miss their trip and lose their deposit.
Mr Bolger makes a point that DIT has highly accredited courses across the board, but in business and management in particular, which makes it very ironic that the college can’t manage to provide a set date for exams during summer months considering they know what each course consists of.
“We’re one of the biggest colleges in the country and we’re also highly ranked. Our business school is one of the best schools in Europe. DT365 is meant to be in the top four percent of European business courses, so how can the college Administration Office, representing one of the top four business colleges have such bad backing in terms of an academic calendar?
“If we’re out promoting the sport, trying to grow this club and make it into a bigger community, to make it more appealing to the rest of the college and if we’re trying to run this society and grow it to put DIT’s name on the map, why isn’t DIT giving us everything they can to support us?
“We’re not asking for money, we’re not asking for funding, we’re not asking for anything out of the question and we’re not asking for anything irrational. We’re just asking a simple question: is this going to clash with exams?”
“I’d consider myself very fond of DIT and I’m very proud to be a DIT student, but at the same time, why should we have to negotiate an extended deadline date with the travel agency… If we’re trying to move from being one of the best I.Ts to being one of the best universities, how can we do that if we can’t even get a timetable done,” he concluded.
According to a new institute agreement which came into place when this year’s academic calendar was released, the timetable for exams must be published four weeks before the exams. This means that a provisional timetable will no longer be released.
“The society had been in touch with me during the summer and said can we have a timetable and I said we can’t give you a timetable because we can’t commit to it. While I realise that’s a difficult thing, we don’t want to cause additional problems for students by saying well here’s a provisional timetable but then we have to change it. There is no agreement between the exams office and the [Snowsports] society or any other.” explained Ms Farrell.
There has been no recent sign of an agreement between the Exam Office and the Snowsports club which could resolve the issue. Snowsports are hoping for an agreement between the two parties for the coming year, with the organisation of their next trip as top priority.