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In the second to last issue of SCAN, a letter of complaint regarding departmental work not being marked and returned to students within the four weeks that are specified in the submission “deal” was printed. Hilarity within my own blinkered mind ensued.
“It’s about time they started doing their jobs!” cried the anarchic, brave and anonymous student, who wasn’t taking this swindling lying down. By all means, exhibit anxiety that you might be waiting a little longer to see how well you performed, but accusing markers of laziness? Really? Could anything be more brazenly expectant than the belief that tutors are, through lateness in returning work to students, exposing their ineptitude? It’s all very well to puff your chest out as far as John O’Groats in outrage at the unfairness of submitting on time and receiving your marks back late, but in this instance, the student’s place in the University hierarchy correlates with the height of highground we may take. As students, our obligation to a department is to submit work on time. After all, punctuality in itself is part of the exam – an assessment of self-discipline and time management. But the same qualities shine through in lecturers daily – Presentations, handouts and the actual substance of their lectures are prepared on time, to specification, serveral times a day. “Imagine my surprise when I went to get it back […] and they weren’t ready” – Yes, how dare they be burdened with other pressing academic tasks, half for their career, half for ours.
For me, the biggest waggle of the rod was the implication that markers are obliged, by our payment, to “hold up their end of the bargain”, as though work being marked late is low value for money. You wouldn’t complain in a restaurant, “Waiter – My food arrived slightly later than you said it would, even though I paid for it. Why couldn’t you be bothered to serve it within fifteen minutes?”, as the response the lecturer would give in this situation would be, “Sorry Sir, here are also 17,000 other diners waiting, as well as 5000 more waiting to be seated.”
School teachers stay up until the small hours marking piddling comprehension exercises, so one can only imagine how small the hour is when most lecturers can hit the sack, what with their lesson preparation, work on publications and those other jollies that they shamelessly jaunt off on in favour of marking work.
We are given a lengthy period to produce a piece of work. The marker is given four weeks to read, critique and score over 20 pieces whilst simultaneously preparing and delivering seminars and lectures to other, yes, other students. Despite this blindingly clear circumstance, it’s nice to know that there are people who’ve convinced themselves that lecturers “can’t be bothered”, and spend the majority of their time splayed across a settee limply trying to insert chips into the right orifice, sleepily gazing at a pile of work to be marked through a haze of cannabis smoke before grunting “balls to it” and pulling the blanket back over them, empty bottles tumbling to the floor as they do so.
Don’t presumptuously concede that I believe students should cease their complaints of malnutrition and be grateful for their diluted soup and rusty bread, I just like to cuddle everyone on the battlefield. I spoke to Psychology student Matt Berry, who at the time of writing is waiting on an overdue piece. He said, “The only thing that annoys me is when I plan to use the criticism on one essay to improve on the next, but haven’t the time to put it into practice because I’ve not had the last assignment back.”
From our perspective, work being returned with little more than a score out of 100 and hastily drawn crosses through random words due to rushed marking is equally irksome.
What’s the fairest compromise to whittle this rather unfortunate grievance down to? Extend the marking period to five weeks on the condition that the comments are comprehensive, detailed and firm enough to build on.
That way, feedback is extensive, and students may piss and moan freely about late work.