Cardiff lecturer posts video calling students ‘idiots’ for wanting safety net

She calls her students ‘ridiculous’ for sharing petitions about no detriment policies

A video of a Cardiff University Bioscience lecturer discussing students’ requests for a safety net policy and calling them “idiots” has been mistakenly uploaded to the student portal and shared with students.

Cardiff University has since apologised for the comments made by the lecturer and said they do not reflect the university’s views.

In the video, senior lecturer Dr Helen McCarthy complains to her colleagues about a student – referring to them by name – having posted a link to a petition regarding exam times in the comment section of her lecture. She says: “It pissed me off yesterday. I hadn’t even started my lecture and [student] put a chat notice up for my lecture with a website petition, stating that they were going to protest about the four hour examination period and there was no safety net policy.”

She does so in response to another lecturer on the call stating that she had received an email about students on the module being “incredibly stressed” due to having just four hours for their exam. Students sitting this exam last academic year were given 24 hours.

Dr McCarthy talks about trying to remove the comment before finally posting in the chat herself, instructing students not to reply. She called the situation “ridiculous”.

In reference to student complaints of a lack of safety net this year, despite there having been one in place last year due to strikes and the outbreak of the pandemic, the same lecturer says: “This is what happens you give them a safety net and all of a sudden you take that away and they’re like ‘oh my God’. Well, students have graduated for hundreds of years without the bloody safety net policy how do you think we all got here.”

Dr McCarthy also adds that the previous time-limit of the exam was 24 hours because of time zones, and jokes that “there is an uprising” amongst students.

When another lecturer on the call suggests that this may be the reason for absences, Dr McCarthy responds: “What are they doing? Protesting with their absence? Idiots, absolute idiots”.

Student reps have been in contact with the school about the incident, with one receiving a response thanking them for bringing it to the school’s attention. The response also stated: “I would advise that you do not share them with the wider student body. I am sure you wouldn’t, but this action may breach a disciplinary regulation. It may also compromise an investigation.”

The video has been shared throughout Bioscience group chats after students discovered it amongst their lecture recordings.

In a message to the head of year, a student rep says: “Students certainly feel that they are upset and have lost trust in Dr. McCarthy, the extenuating circumstances procedure, and perhaps the school and uni as a whole in some cases.” Dr McCarthy is one of the key figures in granting extenuating circumstances within this faculty, according students.

He continues: “These comments really downplay not only the struggles that students are going through as a whole, but are distressing to people who have perhaps missed lectures or have not performed their best due to personal circumstances surrounding the pandemic.”

A Cardiff University spokesperson said: “We are aware of these comments. Such comments do not represent the official view of the University or the School and we apologise for any offence that has been caused. We would encourage any student who is experiencing difficulties with their studies to access the support and advice that is available at both School and University level. We are investigating, and it would be inappropriate to comment further until our investigations have concluded.”

Dr Helen McCarthy has been approached for comment.