No change to UBC exam cancellation plans in case of snow

UBC will continue to communicate weather related exam cancellations in the same manner as last year, with students and faculty notified by UBC’s social media channels, including UBC’s main and media relations X (formerly Twitter) accounts, Facebook and website.

Decisions regarding exams scheduled for 8:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. will be communicated by 6:00 a.m. the morning of, and by 9:00 a.m. for 3:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. sittings. If possible, pre-emptive decisions to cancel will be communicated at 9:00 p.m. the night before.

UBC Media Relations Director of University Affairs Matthew Ramsey said decisions to cancel examinations are not made lightly.

“Many students have spent a lot of time studying for exams,” Ramsey said. “They don’t want their exams necessarily to be cancelled.”

Ramsey also noted cancellations are of particular concern to students who need them to graduate or be accredited in professional programs.

“The decision to postpone an exam … it’s a big decision with a lot of impacts for a lot of people,” Ramsey said. “That’s why we were really careful and we [took] a staged approach.”

The final decision on exam cancellations comes from the student registrar, but a team of representatives from the provost’s office, building operations, campus security, VP students and media relations collaborate to evaluate whether exams will be cancelled.

“[We] take into account current conditions, anticipated conditions, road conditions, conditions on transit … the number of exams that are taking place.” Ramsey said.

Vancouver’s transit system tends to struggle in snowy conditions, as evidenced during the snowfall last year. Vancouver also has a smaller budget for snow removal activities, spending only around $4 million annually compared to Montreal’s $187 million.

“We’re fully aware that some students are not pleased with that time [6:00 a.m.],” Ramsey said, referencing when morning exam cancellations are announced. “But we really have to give [road clearing] crews a chance to do their work before we can realistically make a sensible call for the day.”

Ramsey noted that at UBC, snow removal crews begin work early in the morning on snow days to do their best to have roads clear for students, with shifts sometimes starting at 3 a.m. But with a campus of UBC’s size and a crew of 300, the conditions can be challenging to manage.

Last year, heavy snowfall blanketed Vancouver during the exam period, resulting in the cancellation of all in-person exams on December 20. Affected exams were rescheduled for the first weekend of term two in January.

Some students expressed frustration with the exam’s rescheduling process, which required some students to return to Vancouver earlier than previously expected. Others ended up writing their exams online.

Through a freedom of information request filed by The Ubyssey, emails between administrators show that a pivot to online exams in the case of extreme weather was briefly considered in early December 2022, but the idea was quickly dropped due to logistical considerations.

In a change to exam policy this year, instructors are able to decide to allow students to take their exams remotely in the case of cancelled exams.

“If I was talking to a student, I would say, ‘ask your professor what their plan is,’” Ramsey said. "It’s really down to the individual faculty members and the individual departments to make that call.”

For students who rely on public transit to get home, ensuring there is a warm place open late on campus during cold weather is critical.

During exams, IKB will be open until 1:00 a.m. and Koerner Library will be open until 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 6:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The AMS also announced the Nest will be open 24/7 during the exam period, according to their recent Reddit post.

Last year, when snow flurries in the afternoon stranded students on campus, the Nest remained open overnight to provide emergency shelter for students stuck on campus due to the snow.