KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 — UCSI University highlighted Malaysia’s transition to an endemic phase, after several students accused the private tertiary education institution of forcing them to attend examinations physically amid the latest wave of Covid-19 cases.

Speaking to Malay Mail, the university’s vice-president Leong Sat Sing said it has set in place criteria for certain students to postpone or take their exams remotely and denied that it has disregarded procedures to prevent an outbreak or that one of its campuses has suffered from a high number of cases.

“We are trying to live in an endemic environment and this is what we are also encouraging the students to do. We are trying to live with the pandemic as encouraged by the government. 

“Even the SPM exams are physical,” he said, referring to the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia taken by Form Five students.

After complaints from students, Leong said there are only three circumstances when an online exam is allowed: visa issues, closed borders preventing a student from returning, or for those who are ill.

Leong said its examination halls provide adequate space for physical distancing between students and sanitisation efforts are taken vigorously during exam weeks.

“We do it more vigorously during the exam week. Instead of once a day, we do it twice a day and every hour we clean the toilets,” he said, adding that it is also mandatory for students and lecturers to wear face masks at all times during physical classes.

He said that students can lodge complaints if any student or staff is seen without face masks.

Malaysia started its transition towards the endemic phase on April 1, with most activities allowed provided the standard operating procedures are heeded — which include registering with the MySejahtera app, wearing face masks and maintaining physical distancing, and for the venue to provide good ventilation.

This comes as several UCSI students alleged to Malay Mail that the university has not provided any option for online examinations like it previously did, claiming a high number of Covid-19 infections at the Kuala Lumpur campus with UCSI allegedly concealing information on them.

Leong said the university does not keep tabs on the number of positive cases there, and that not all positive cases were reported to the university.

In a Zoom interview last week, several students expressed fear that their cumulative grade point average (CGPA) would be affected should they get infected with Covid-19 and be unable to sit for their scheduled exams.

“Concerns have been brought up to the UCSI student council. Even after all the meetings and surveys show that the majority of students choose online examinations, there’s no result at all. 

“Since UCSI has a lot of students, whether local or international, they all have to be in one place, cramped for an exam. You can imagine hundreds of people gathering in a place,” said student Andrew Sutanto through a Zoom online call with other students who wished to stay anonymous.

A student alleged that cases started to rise on the campus after the Chinese New Year holiday, citing lecturers who informed them of the matter.

“General postgraduate and foundation students are allowed online exams, but undergraduate students aren’t even given any option,” one student said.

UCSI has not provided a response to this accusation at the time of writing.

Malay Mail was also informed that those unable to sit for their exams would be allowed to sit for a supplementary session, but their grades would only be capped at the C grade.

However, another undergraduate from the university claimed that students will still be graded by the merits of their performance just like in a regular exam and that this information, however, was not duly conveyed to them, leading to fear and panic.

“Even if it’s supplementary, if it’s my first time sitting for an exam, even my supplementary will be marked as normal and not capped at a C.

“But many are not clear on this information, because the faculty did not communicate the information clearly,” the student said.

An online petition urging the university to allow students to opt between taking their final examination physically or remotely was also launched three weeks ago, with over 2,500 signatures collected as of press time, of the targeted 5,000 signatures.

Students in the interview also claimed that several lecturers have been conducting physical lessons in class sans face masks.

“All we’re asking is for the option to go either online or physical. At least they could talk about it with us more, instead of not really answering some of the students’ emails well. It would be better if they are transparent.

“Also, the transparency part. It doesn’t seem very ‘honest’ of them to not mention the cases on campus and steps taken to rectify them. Students feel unsafe coming to the university not knowing if there are cases. If there are, they are concerned for their family’s safety and can’t take extra precautions as it’s being concealed by the university. 

“Shopping malls immediately close their shop whenever cases are present and they will open after they have confirmed the place is safe, by sanitising. UCSI on the other hand is calling in more students to come for physical classes knowing that there are multiple cases there,” student Kiranraj Murali Krishnan told Malay Mail

The Ministry of Health reported 12,105 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours yesterday. There are now 162,217 active cases, down 34.5 per cent from two weeks ago.