Students embrace opportunity to trade in pens for swords

Edits: Marta Kierkus

Are you sick of the stress of upcoming exams? Would you prefer to trade in three hours of non-stop writing for five minutes of gladiatorial combat?

Well, one University of Ottawa professor is giving students the option to engage in a hand- to-hand fight to the death rather than write an extensive exam.

The idea for this new take on academic examinations began with Roman civilization professor Paul Duncan, who started incorporating the unconventional format into his final exams back in December. Duncan says that since incorporating this new form of evaluation, the attendance for his class and participation from his students has skyrocketed.

“I found that students got more involved in the class once you raised the stakes higher than a pass or fail grade,” he said.

The basic premise is that during the last class of the semester, students get to choose whether they would rather fight another student in hand-to-hand combat or write their exam. For those who choose the former, the gladiator fights are then scheduled to take place just before the final exam, with the professor and the teaching assistants on hand to judge its outcome.

Duncan’s initial plan was to have students face off against their professors or TAs, but he quickly scrapped that plan in favour of a student-versus-student format.

“I realized there was no way I could beat any of my students. We’re already understaffed as it is, so I didn’t want to add to the problem with a completely avoidable departmental fatality,” he said.

Even though professors from other faculties are latching onto this new way of motivating their pupils, opinion is still divided among students.

“I’m really not comfortable with this. I mean, fighting to the death just to see which students pass, that just seems wrong,” said Angela Murray, a first-year history student.

“Honestly if my choice is between fighting gladiator-style or writing another ball-busting final, hand me a battle trident and let’s get messy,” said Garth Tomson, a second-year political science student.

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) has also got involved to ensure students have the opportunity for a fair fight.

“While it isn’t our place to tell teachers how to conduct their class, we still want to make sure that every student has the opportunity to pass,” said a source from inside the SFUO. “This means that if one student gets a sword, then his or her opponent should be armed with at least a shield or a mace so everyone’s on a level playing field.”

Despite the guaranteed fatal outcome, this new form of exam may turn out to be the key for a stress-free exam month, especially for those who normally struggle under the weight of their studying.

According to Health Services: “At this time of year, nothing is better for relieving stress than a potentially fatal full-body workout.”