Thursday, March 18, 2010

To "fail because of sticking to one's principles" or To "succeed by cowardice" - that is the question!

Hey everyone.
This story is a tad old, but the drama from this situation only recently cleared up, so I can address it now.

A most untenable situation played itself out during our previous exam period. One of the papers ended up leaked/stolen. Actually, whichever way you look at it, it was a minor mishap that was blown way out of proportion.

Truth be told, it was the culmination of minor mistakes by both teachers and students that had been allowed to fester for some time. The only thing was that when it was time to own up to the mistake, no one wanted to take responsibility.
The teachers, citing the 'devilishness' of the students, had resolved to have us retake the test a mere 3 days, (nay!) 2 days after the incident was discovered; meaning, we took the test on a Thursday (Jan 7), Friday (Jan 8) morning they declared the test void, slated the retake for Sunday(Jan 10), and then moved it to Saturday(Jan 9).

That might have been alright, were it not for that fact that there was no convenient time for the 'new' test in an already jam packed exam roster. The students on the other hand, were also sticking to their guns as 'thick as thieves'. Most students, were oblivious to the whole thing didn't mind a retake...they just wanted it on a different day. And some students were just against the idea of a retake altogether.

Thinking that communication between Teachers & Students was all that was needed, I got in there and asked students to sign a petition seeking a change of date for what was set to be an inevitable retake test and presented that to the Teaching Office. From my fellow students I got some half-hearted responses; some people would only pledge support when the crowds were there, but would definitely not be there for the long run; others went about diluting the process by holding on to the untenable notion that "...since they were not responsible for the mess up, they would not assent to a retake of the test."
And some students were in the precarious position of not being able to ask for any special favours from the school.

And nothing really positive came from the teachers. Some understood the stressfulness the students were facing, but they were powerless to control the situation, and some just straight out refused to listen. It seemed like the test would go on as planned.

To tell you the truth, the paper - Preventive Medicine - A general education course, was something I could have passed very easily...BUT it wasn't the thing that worried me. In only a few days I was set to take an Acupuncture test that scared me in a manner few things seldom ever do; and every spare minute I had was also spent preparing for the big finisher - PHARMACOLOGY.

For one measly (failed) test to demand so much time from me, in terms of studying again was too much to bear. (I was sure the teachers would set an even harder test to avenge our least I would if I were in their place!!!)

For better or worse, I was just gonna sit out the test!
I'd tried the "diplomatic" thing with the people-in-charge, but that failed, so I felt like I had no other choice. Other students said they felt the same way, and so it seemed like people were just gonna sit out the re-take exam.

But this played itself out just like the situation with getting signatures for the petition - too many conflicting interests, too many confused people, some people suggested radical things which were sure to spiral out of control; and the clincher was that some people claimed they would only sit out the test if EVERYONE ELSE sat out the test ( if I was meant to guarantee such a condition!)

Anyway, the day to retake the exam came, and we had decided we'd show up for the test, voice our disapproval at the way things were handled, and then just sit-it-out.

Ideally that's how things should have worked out!
At exam time, most of the student group - almost 130 - were camped outside one set of classrooms waiting to speak to someone with even an ounce of decent authority. But some students just sat down and took the test, which of course set off a chain-reaction whereby other students felt that they also had to take the test or suffer consequences.

Meanwhile, a shouting match of sorts ensued among the group of students who were still sticking to their guns. "Mob Mentality" had set in, and I thank God nothing drastic happened (I'm not exactly in a place where this kind of dissent is tolerated). But at that point all was futile! I just tried to calm things down a tad, 'cause I was wasting time - I needed to be studying. I said what I had to and left.

In the end, only 49 of us sat-out that test. At that point it was merely a numbers game. This was an embarrassing situation for our school in particular, and I didn't know how they wanted to address it.
If the number of dissenters was very low, hard punishments could easily have been meted out. Another thing was the character of the dissenters, and that made the difference between the incident being viewed as a 'tantrum' or a 'valid complaint'.

Our names are labels, plainly printed on the essence of our past behaviour

It did help that we had a list of scholarship recipients among our ranks, and I know it spoke in our favour. So luckily a few things went in our favour

1. I was not expelled
2. I didn't lose the scholarship from the school
3. I got to retake the test - devoid of any ill effect - last week

Some things didn't go so well though.

1. This amorphous group of students was brought together in a semblance of unity not previously seen before, but the fall out from the whole incident means that type of unity probably won't be seen again.

2. The embarrassment to the school breaks my heart. "Their glory is my glory" and I wish things could have worked out better.

3. Some people turned on me. It was bad enough to find yourself standing without support in the midst of all the goings-on, but it was even worse to turn around and hear that students accused me of forcing them to sign the petition and Lord knows what else.

That last bit hurt. Almost made it seem like there's never any good reason for standing up for something

(Really long post...I'll round it up in the next one....)

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