The mayhem caused by the snow in UCD around exam time left some students amused and others frustrated, writes Paul Fennessy

According to the novelist JB Priestley, “The first fall of snow is a magical event. You go to bed in one sort of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found.” Somehow, it is hard to fathom the majority of UCD students subscribing to Priestley’s romantic notion of snow, particularly the thousands of students who were forced to re-sit their Christmas exams in January as a result of recent ungodly weather conditions.

Yet not all students took an entirely dim view of the fact that they would have to experience Christmas with the disconcerting prospect of exams looming over them. Abaí Ní Ógáin, a third-year Science student, explains her optimistic view of proceedings: “You have to take the best from these situations and not moan about it,” she says. “It was cold now and then, but it’s good craic. I do love the snow. It cancelled my exams, what’s not to love?” she laughs.

And yet there was plenty not to love, not least those pesky icy pathways, in the opinion of third-year Arts student Suzanne Bedell: “Falling over quite a bit was always fun,” she admits. “I came down from the DART station, it’s on a hill. And I just fell on my ass. And on Christmas Eve, I fell again. It happened to be in the same place, so it was kind of sore. It wasn’t too bad; I just got a few bruises.”

“I saw people walking across the lake when it was frozen,” says Lydia Colin, Bedell’s friend and fellow third-year Arts student. “I think they got in trouble though. But when else could people ever say I walked across the lake in UCD?”

Other students, however, were not quite as accepting of the situation and expressed some dissatisfaction at the manner in which it was handled. Ciaràn Farrelly, a final-year Economics student, was one such example of someone who was immensely frustrated by these extraordinary circumstances.

“I just thought the exams should’ve gone ahead because the rest of the country was going ahead,” he argues. “I know people that have gone skiing who have to come back early because of the exams. It just messes up everything. And you can’t blame anyone. The snow happens, it’s just unfortunate.

“I knew lads who drove back and it took them three hours to get from the RDS to the library – the place was shut then and all their stuff was inside.”

Cathal Stack, also in final-year Economics, is more forthright in his condemnation of UCD authorities: “They should’ve just cut the Tuesday off altogether. The line they were given about people being there on the Tuesday was a load of rubbish. I don’t know how they expected people to come in, unless they had bloody skis.”

Another criticism related to the fact that in the lead-up to the rescheduled exams, the UCD library was not open as frequently as some students hoped it would be. Although the library did cater for these students by opening its doors on the weekend before the exam, certain people felt it should have been accessible for longer than the nine-to-five hours at which it was operating during the week prior to the rescheduled exams.

“They cancelled exams, yet the library’s still open minimum opening hours now. It’s not open, yet I’ve two exams,” says Farrelly.

“It’s shocking that the library’s closed at half five this week,” agrees Stack, adding: “I was always curious why the Students’ Union cancelled that shuttle bus on the Tuesday.”

Nonetheless, despite these students’ complaints, UCDSU Education Vice-President James Williamson praised the college for the manner in which they dealt with the situation and defended their policy of maintaining the standard library opening hours for the week prior to the exams.

“UCD did actually do quite well, I think,” he says. “It’s kind of opened their eyes. They will always have the exam halls booked in January, as they did this year, in case there’s snow. I think the only thing they could improve on is the communication to students, but the message seemed to get there pretty quick anyway through word of mouth.”

He continues: “To be honest, extending the library opening hours before the exam is not really possible. The exams are cancelled with a day to go, so most of the students would have most of their work done. I know an extra day is a huge amount of time, but they did have all their Christmas holidays and the library was open for an adequate amount of time.”

Williamson also adds that the reason the shuttle bus stopped running at a certain point on the Tuesday of the exam week was due to health and safety concerns for its driver. “It’s very difficult to ask a bus driver, who mightn’t be confident at driving it, to keep going on roads like that, because it is hazardous,” he explains.

Thus, while the great snowstorm of 2010 may have enabled UCD students to literally walk on (lake) water, other normally straightforward tasks such as sitting exams and using transport were unfortunately not so simple. Winter of 2011 probably won’t hear strains of ‘Let it Snow’ from the Belfield campus.