No popcorn with these exams

Posted on Monday, April 15, 2013

Cineplex's seats will be fitted with tablets that are 10 inches by 13.75 inches -- slightly larger than the surfaces on which students would write in the gymnasium.

McGill holds examinations in Cineplex as City construction means Currie Gym unavailable

By Doug Sweet

No, they won’t serve popcorn or soft drinks when hundreds of McGill students sit down to write final exams this month at the downtown Banque Scotia Cineplex on Ste. Catherine St. Nor will there be free movie tickets.

But the big, comfortable seats in four out of the five theatres on the top floor of the movie complex will be fitted with specially made tablets that fit into the chairs’ cupholders, providing ample space for students to write their exams. The Cineplex is also installing more lighting. No movies will be shown on the top floor during exams and there are no exams scheduled for Friday nights or on weekends.

The move to the movie theatre is necessitated by the City of Montreal’s continuing aqueduct work around the McTavish Reservoir. Work on Pine Ave. near University St. has made the Currie Gym, which can hold about 1,000 students, unsuitable for exams this year, said Kathleen Massey, McGill’s Registrar and Executive Director of Enrolment Services. Noise and security concerns arising from the construction, as well as more difficult access to the Gym compelled the University to seek other locations, she said, and there is nothing else on campus large enough to hold that many students at once.

“We considered a variety of options, including McGill’s New Residence Hall and Timmins Auditorium (at the Neuro),” Massey said. “Off-campus, we considered borrowing space from local CEGEPs and from other universities such as Concordia and UQAM, but they needed their space for exams or other purposes or they were too far away to make travelling back and forth practical for our students.

“Also, some of these options did not have enough seating for our needs. We also considered several hotels in the local area and the Palais des Congrès. The Palais is too far away and the hotels (for example, the Holiday Inn) were too expensive and did not have enough seating available for the entire exam period.”

The goals, Massey noted, were to maintain consistent exam conditions so students would have a consistent experience, minimize the distribution of exams across rooms and buildings, make sure there is a reasonable distance for student to get from one exam to another, and hold exams in an appropriate, quiet and manageable space within the normal exam period (April 17-30).

Of the 1,001 exams to be administered, 172 will be written at the movie complex. The full exam schedule provides a list of where various exams will be administered.

This is not the first time a university has taken over a movie theatre for exams, Massey said, pointing to Ryerson University in Toronto, which regularly uses movie theatre space for exams. It is a first for Montreal, however. Cineplex will study the McGill experience this year before offering its spaces to other universities in future. The theatre built the tablets especially for this occasion, Massey said. Those tablets will be slightly larger than the surfaces on which students would write in the gymnasium.

The downtown theatre complex provides 874 exam seats (students sit in every second row) over the 10 days of exams. Other spaces on campus will be used to make up the difference between the theatres’ capacity and that of the gym.

This is also not the first time exams have been moved off campus. The nearby Holiday Inn, on Sherbrooke St., used to provide enough space for exams, but does no longer. And McGill has tried using the McConnell Arena, but it provided too cold.

Students in affected courses were notified by email last week of the change in venue.

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