Uni apologises after lecturer caught calling students 'absolute idiots'

A lecturer who branded her students ‘absolute idiots’ on a video call with colleagues was left embarrassed after the footage was accidentally posted on a shared student portal. 

Cardiff University’s Dr Helen McCarthy is seen criticising students calling for an exam safety net in the footage, which was then widely shared in the university community.

She joked about there being an ‘uprising’ over the issue and sparked a major backlash against her comments.

The video shows the senior lecturer – who students say is a ‘key figure’ in granting extenuating circumstance requests – complaining about one student posting a link to a petition in the comments section of her online lecture.

In the footage, Dr McCarthy says: ‘I hadn’t even started my lecture and [the 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.’

At one point in the conversation, a colleague says with a smile: ‘Crikey, you’ve got a full-on uprising on your hands over there by the sounds of it.’

The video was shared on Bioscience group chats after students discovered it amongst their lecture recordings. It is unclear how the video was initially uploaded there, but some reports suggest Dr McCarthy mistakenly uploaded it herself.

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

In the video, staff members are talking about how much time the students are allowed for exams. 

Dr McCarthy 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?’

She also joked that ‘there is an uprising’ amongst students.

When another staff member on the call suggests that this may be the reason for some absences, Dr McCarthy responds: ‘What are they doing? Protesting with their absence? Idiots, absolute idiots’.

Responding to the video, a student representative told their head of year: ‘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.

‘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.’

Metro.co.uk has approached Dr McCarthy for comment. 

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