Fire alarm cancels written exam: Students were infuriated

Skrevet af Helle-Lise Ritzau Kaptaintranslated by Kristoffer Nyegaard - Foto: Anders Meldgård Kjemtrup - 7. november 2013 - 12:230 kommentarer
When the fire alarm sounded 15 minutes before the written exam was over, the students could just as well have gone home right away.

Nearly 200 master-students were only 15 minutes away from completing their written exams, Wednesday the 30th October, when a fire-alarm interrupted them. Although CBS simply followed the applicable rules, and cancelled the exam, the students were infuriated.


At 12:45, Wednesday the 30th October, 200 master-students were on the verge of finishing their exam at the new exam-facility on Amager. There were only 15 minutes left before they had to hand in their assignments in Financial Statement Analysis. But then the fire alarm went off.

Everyone was evacuated onto Amager Strandvej, where they waited until the authorities stated that it was a false alarm. The students returned to their seats, and were told to continue their work. But after 15 minutes, they were informed that the exam was cancelled, and they were told to go home.

They sweated for no reason
According to OBSERVER’s information, the message, that the almost 4-hour long exam was cancelled, triggered an outcry amongst the students.

Expressions such as “We should be taken seriously”, “You must be fucking kidding!” and “Ridiculous” were to be heard, as the students vacated the exam-facility. Later that day, many students relieved their frustrations onto Facebook. The status-updates speak for themselves.

“… I typed for THREE hours and 45 minutes (4h exam), and the fire alarm goes off… guess what! Have to write The WHOLE EXAM again. Isn’t there a student organization where I can protest at least?!”, “When was the last time an exam really turned out as planned at CBS?”, “My hatred towards CBS has reached new heights today..:” and “Fuck that moron who set off the fire alarm 15 minutes before our FSA-exam finished, so as to cancel it!!”

Evacuation followed standard procedure
It wasn’t a “moron” that set off the fire alarm, but rather a technical malfunction in the sprinkler system, says safety inspector Lars Bergø.

It is a very delicate and sensitive system. The so-called overflow switch suddenly registered a power malfunction, which the system has to respond to by setting off an alarm, and by signalling the security officers, so they can initiate an evacuation of the building, explains Lars Bergø.

The safety at the exam facility is undertaken by an external firm, Green Circle, who’re specialists in fire safety and security, and it was their security officers who evacuated the building upon hearing the alarm.

They acted exactly as they were supposed to, according to the rules. The maintenance of our safety systems is a key concern, and our fire alarms are actually checked once a week. It was the first time that the fire alarm went off at the exam facility, and we will, of course, examine the problem very thoroughly, so we can avoid a similar occurrence, says Lars Bergø.

Couldn’t hand in on their way out
Even though the students, who’re very busy studying for their upcoming exams, were outraged, the decision to cancel the exam was the only right one, explains Wilbert van der Meer, secretary at the Dean’s Office of Education.

The students must leave the building, as soon as the fire alarm sounds, and there isn’t time to ask the students to save their work and to switch off their computers, he says and points out that it obviously isn’t permitted to for students, who’re nearly done, to finish and hand in their exams.

The students had to wait 30 minutes before they could enter the exam facility again. Meanwhile, the exam guards deliberated the consequences of the fire alarm. CBS hasn’t been in a similar situation of force majeure before, why extra time was spent on making the decision.

Exam was cancelled to avoid accusations of fraud
It wasn’t an exam that solely required long explanations, but one that also required specific calculations and results. CBS’ lawyers assessed therefore, that since we can’t guarantee that the students haven’t talked about the exam during their involuntary break, we can’t exclude the possibility that some students could have cheated, says Wilbert van der Meer.

§ 5 of the exam rules clearly states that students aren’t permitted to leave the exam the first and the last 30 minutes of the exam, and that it isn’t permitted to communicate with other students throughout the duration of the exam.

Of course we have take the students academic competence into account, but we likewise have to take the rules into account. We can’t be accused of giving students an opportunity to cheat at an exam. Our main consideration is the students’ safety, emphasises Wilbert van der Meer.

Students expect discretionary measures to be taken:
Rasmus Greis, who’s studying MSc Finance and Strategic Management, is one of the students burdened by the fire alarm-incident. Even though he’s familiar with the rules, and that he acknowledges the incident as force majeure, he nonetheless finds the situation absurd.

We received a very brief email with the message that CBS is doing everything they can, so that we can take a new exam as soon as possible. But it will take some time to obtain a new room, assignment and exam guards, says Rasmus Greis and sighs, as he looks at his already overfilled calendar.

In about two weeks, I’ll be attending a conference abroad that has been planned for a long time. I hope, if the new exam is scheduled for that week, that CBS will take discretionary measures and give me permission to take the re-exam next year - even though I wont be able to follow the rules and hand in a blank exam.