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Universities are cancelling in-person exams, Western University isn't. Here's what students had to say

Amidst universities cancelling in-person exams, including University of Victoria and Queen's University, some students at Western University are divided about the safety of being physically present for their exam this semester.

Nearly 100 per cent of students and faculty are fully vaccinated

Exams at Western this semester are all in-person. (James Chaarani/CBC)

Amidst universities cancelling in-person exams, including University of Victoria and Queen's University, some students at Western University are divided about the safety of being physically present for their exam this semester. 

The university sent out an email on Dec. 9, saying that in-person exams are going ahead with the approval of the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

The university said support from the health unit for in-person exams was based on no evidence of transmission of the virus in classrooms. A university representative pointed to their vaccination rate of 99.5 per cent for students and 98.9 per cent for staff. While there have been no outbreaks reported due to transmission of the virus in classrooms, there are two active outbreaks in residences, including Saugeen-Maitland Hall Residence and Delaware Hall Residence.

CBC News went to Western's campus and asked students about their in-person test experiences. 

Noah Sanders

Noah Sanders has concerns about writing exams in person. (James Chaarani/CBC)

First-year student Noah Sanders had just finished an exam and was concerned about how close he was to other students on Monday. He wrote the exam at the back of the room, hoping he'd be more distance from other students.

"We're all wearing masks but people have water bottles so they're taking off their masks to drink water, and people are sneezing," said Sanders. "In my last exam two days ago, I was surrounded by people, even waiting before the exam, they were sniffling their nose.

"I was very uncomfortable with the amount of virus that could've been spread."

Sanders has three more exams to write in person. 

Ariana Walji

Ariana Walji is concerned because of the Omicron variant. (James Chaarani/CBC)

Walji is studying medical sciences and agreed that doing in-person exams  "is a bit frightening." She said the omicron variant is to blame for her worry.

"This new variant, I think, brings about new stresses for students, of course, and we're all going home back to our families," she said. "It is a bit of a concern, not only in terms of keeping ourselves safe, but also our families and having to come back to campus."

That said, she felt "relatively safe" during her last exam as there was distancing and masking, but she highlighted the difficulties of staying masked for an extended period of time. 

Kibreab Gebremariam

Kibreab Gebremariam said he "felt very safe" during his exam. (James Chaarani/CBC)

Fourth year student, Kibreab Gebremariam, is "indifferent" when it comes to taking exams in-person versus remotely. 

"I felt very safe," he said. "I had one this morning and it was very spaced out. It was a small class, so fourth-year classes are pretty small, and we had our exam in one of the largest lecture halls in the school." 

Nev Gowland

Nev Gowland "felt fairly safe" during her exam but thinks that having the option to do it remotely would've been good. (James Chaarani/CBC)

Gowland, who is a history student at Western, "felt fairly safe" for the one in-person exam she'd already done, explaining that they were in cubicles that were separated and other students were masked up. 

However, she said that having the option to do her exam remotely would've been good since "people want to get going home for the holidays" and "especially because things are getting worse because of COVID." 

She has one other in-person exam left to do.

Randy Lehay

Second-year accounting student Randy Lehay was on his way to go write an exam when approached by CBC News. He said he isn't reluctant about writing his exams in-person, even with the omicron variant. 

"Western took great protocols to prevent the spread of COVID," he said. "We all have to wear masks. We're all vaccinated. I think they've done a great job so far.

"The only thing I hate is being away from home," he said. "Other than that, I love in-person. Never go back to online. Horrible."

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