Deparments Encounter Scantron-Machine Shortage

In the past, professors and teaching assistants in the cognitive science-department used other departments’ Scantron machines to grade their exams. This quarter, however, they were unable to find a department willing to loan them a machine.

“Because cognitive science does not have its own machine, historically, we have begged access from other departments that do have machines and were willing to let us share,” cognitive-science professor Gedeon Deák said.

In response, former A.S. Campuswide Senator Tobias Haglund — a student in the cognitive-science department — called attention to the issue on May 12 when he noticed that his midterms were not being graded and returned as quickly as before. Because many students rely on their first midterm grades to determine whether or not to drop a class, Haglund said this delay now endangers their ability to do so before the Week Four deadline.

“The TA ended up having to do it all by hand,” Haglund said. “It took him two or two-and-a-half weeks. People were frustrated about drop deadlines. The professor sent out an e-mail saying, ‘Sorry — wish we could do something about it.’”

Other departments, such as political science, have had similar problems. Associate Dean of Social Sciences David Lake said that since the social science Scantron machine has not been replaced from when it broke a year ago, he had to borrow the machine belonging to the mathematics department, which allowed him one-time access as a favor.

Deák attributed the cognitive-science department’s grading troubles to UCSD’s across-the-board funding cuts.

“As all departments have their budgets cut, we will probably see a trend toward shutting down or limiting services like Scantron scoring,” Deák said. “This is a concern, because budget cuts are projected to continue or even get worse over the next few years.”

In an e-mail to the all A.S. councilmembers last week, Haglund proposed that the A.S. Council put some student fees toward a new system in which academic departments — and potentially students — could rent out Scantron machines. Haglund said a Scantron-lending service could take the responsibility of paying for machine repairs off the shoulders of hurting departments.

Though Haglund said he was unsure where the money for the project would come from, the A.S. Enterprise Operations account might be a possible source. He also suggested that a 2010-11 campuswide senator chose the endeavor as one of his or her long-term projects for the year.

Although Deák said that a centralized Scantron system is necessary at UCSD, he argued that the responsibility of funding the machines belongs not to the students, but to the office of Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Paul Drake.

“I would argue that it is the university’s responsibility — through the VCAA’s office — to provide the main campus with resources for a grading facility,” Deák said.

Readers can contact Connie Qian at [email protected].