Testing is hard, UT needs to stop making it harder

Laura Doan

For the average UT student, a ticking clock and a cramped classroom make exams uncomfortable and high-stress. But many fellow longhorns can’t test like the average UT student — they have the additional stress of alternative testing.

Students with athletic conflicts or illnesses often need to reschedule exams. Students with learning disabilities or ADHD need tests relocated to a reduced distraction environment. An estimated 3,000 Longhorns submit requests for alternative testing accommodations per semester.

UT needs to establish a centralized testing center for these students because the current process for finding alternative test-taking space is disorganized and unfairly burdens professors and students.

Services for Students with Disabilities currently has limited space for students who need adaptive equipment or alternative testing. But SSD doesn’t train professors on providing alternative test spaces — though they try to answer professor questions — and cannot guarantee distraction-free spaces for all the students who need them. It’s entirely up to students and teachers to deal with scheduling, space availability and accessibility problems. Those should not be their jobs.

To their credit, UT administrators have finally set the wheels in motion. A testing center was listed as an action item on last year’s University Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, and their latest progress report shows they are in the planning stages. Long-term, administrators should work to build an independent, fully equipped testing center in the heart of campus, near the tower and the FAC. However, right now UT needs concentrated resources and energy focused on short-term solutions. Students shouldn’t have to go another semester without a place to test.

The best short-term option is implementing Senate of College councils proposal S.R. 1714 to establish a testing center in the PCL. According to Luciano Barraza, advertising and government senior, co-author of S.R. 1714 and vice president of Senate of College Councils, UT’s library director is receptive. And with book digitization and office relocation, the PCL could add a testing center without removing current study spaces. Clearing space in the PCL would serve students quickly and increase support for more expensive long-term solutions. “I think that right now the big thing is let’s get the space in on campus,” Barraza said. “Let’s show that there is adequate demand for the services, and then that will help the University, you know, make a convincing argument that we need to build this space.”

Students who will benefit from the testing center, or who want to advocate for those who will, should make their voices heard. Those with requests or ideas for the UT testing center should go to the Senate office in SAC 2.102. “We’re always open to listening to the concerns of the student body,” Barraza said.

And administrators should make it their goal to establish this testing center by next fall. They have a summer to plan and implement, and they need to catch up and serve students in need of testing accommodations quickly.

 It’s time for UT to stand up for equity and provide a testing center. Every student deserves the same opportunities for successful testing.

Doan is an English and Plan II junior from Fort Worth.