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VP academic Meg Martin hopes to provide U of C students with an online bank of study exams.
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Students' Union exam bank project slow going

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Students' Union vp academic Meg Martin is looking to clubs and professors to improve the SU's online exam bank, which is slated to roll out at the end of this semester. Unfortunately for Martin, the project is encountering considerable resistance.

"It's not going particularly well," said Martin.

Over the summer Martin approached all the different clubs with a proposal to acquire their recent exams, but they voted in a block to not give any exams to the SU for its exam bank.

Martin said that part of the clubs' reluctance to turn over exams is due to the fact that exams provide significant revenue for them.

Sarah Muir, vp academic of the Political Science Students' Society, explained that the club needs the exams to generate new membership and provide the club with revenue.

"If you take away exams from clubs you take away incentive and a major reason to become a club member," said Muir. "As a club, memberships are a significant source of revenue. If you take away the incentive, you take away reasons for membership which has a direct impact on revenue."

Martin has been receptive to these potential losses and developed a two-pronged approach.

"We will provide $10 for exams under five pages and $15 over five pages," said Martin, who noted that this funding is capped at $500. "On top of that, if the clubs can prove financial damages resulting from the exam bank in the form of diminished membership or loss of exam sales, we will reimburse them for that loss for three years, at an amount not to exceed $1,000 per year."

Martin said that she felt there is no way that clubs could possibly lose any money from buying into the exam bank.

"Being compensated is a good thing," said Muir. "However, one-time compensation harms future memberships."

Muir added that getting the empirical evidence for long term declines in membership would be difficult.

"It's very much a short term policy and it doesn't consider long term financial repercussions," said Muir.

Martin noted that another obstacle to creating the exam bank, for both the SU and clubs, is that many professors, particularly in the Social Sciences, are not willing to give out old exams.

"Largely it's an unwillingness to develop new exams," said Martin. "Some of them feel that an exam bank is a mechanism with which a student can avoid thinking critically and they feel that it encourages studying to the test, which I disagree with."

Martin articulated her belief that the exam bank is an important tool, which, when accessed, indicates student willingness to prepare in advance.

"It's really unfortunate because I personally, truly, do not believe that any student club should be able to get a hold of exams . . . have a monopoly . . . and charge unreasonable prices for materials that should be available to every student," said Martin.

Martin has suggested that clubs could be creative and design things like study sessions or provide answer keys and tutoring to quell concerns over revenue declines affiliated with memberships.

Nevertheless, the exam bank will roll forward with or without the participation of clubs and instructors and Martin said that students can expect to see what exams the SU does have in the form of an exam bank by finals.

Martin, though, still sees the project meeting substantial problems that could eventually see the exam bank's demise.

"I have made the recommendation that if in three years the exam bank is stagnating the project should be terminated," said Martin.

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