Exam tagger deserves punishment
It does little to help faith in the security of external examination papers when a selection of them are tagged with abusive comments, but it does even less when the culprit not only gets away with it, but shows no remorse whatsoever.
It seems that everyone apart from Daniel Ziegler is aware how serious the issue is. Both NZQA and New Zealand Post were shocked and dismayed at the mere thought that examination papers could be tampered with while under their care. The affected candidates were disgusted, the public was disgusted, and the other NCEA candidates were glad it wasn’t them.
Ziegler displays himself to be at the height of inconsideration when he describes his move as a joke. The fact that this was a national exam aside, it’s difficult to see how anyone (except Ziegler) could find comments such as “good one dick!”, “you useless sack of poo” or “shame elf!” funny. Let’s say he was trying to be funny. Did he succeed? Would he have succeeded under any circumstances? To anyone except himself, including third parties? You do not greet a failure by calling them “dick”, “poo” or “elf”. You do not tease someone because of failure. You either greet them nicely, or you do not greet them at all.
Of course, the situation being as it was, his “practical joke” had far further implications that being funny or not funny. He had vandalised an examination script—an official document, if you like—and as such, the question becomes one of security. Examination papers must be handled only by trustworthy people who—by the nature of the job—should be bound to agreements involving civil conduct and confidentiality. They are sensitive documents: they represent a year’s worth of efforts. Anyone with the slightest decency would leave them as they are.
I feel no need to press on the wider implications—namely, the concerns we’d have about what happens to examination papers before marking—because as I say, the appropriate bodies are well aware of the seriousness of the issue. Though it does seem disappointing that, despite efforts by the police and NZ Post to find ways to punish the offender, there is no way to do so. If common sense prevailed, Ziegler would be punished, but as it happens, we live in a country of law, and laws he did not break. Perhaps it would have been a sackable offense, but that doesn’t really help us.
What will hopefully happen is tighter conditions and agreements, including the avenue of post-employment prosecution, for jobs involving the handling of examination papers. It’s difficult to speculate on this, but there is no doubt that NZQA and New Zealand Post are determined that this won’t happen again.
Perhaps they deserve some praise. But then again, when it comes to civil service, doing the right thing is when you’re not criticised, in the words of God in that episode of Futurama, if you do everything right, people won’t know you’ve done anything at all.