It may perhaps be carrying coals to Newcastle to point out that proctoring examinations is at best a difficult business. For at a time when students nerves are on the ragged edge, when Cambridge town reminds one of the fiery furnace of Biblical fame, and when the fate of a course or a career hangs in the balance of a short three hours, it seems obvious that the college officials must use kid gloves in handling the undergraduates, if the best results in the examinations are to be obtained. And kid gloves have not been much in evidence in the last few days.
There is nothing more discouraging to slaving students, especially in the larger halls, to see a little knot of proctors standing in a corner of the room after the books have been given out rehearsing together their last week-end on the North Shore or trip to Revere for the roller-coaster. This sort of proctorial whispering, even though it may be a dull job to loaf about for three hours watching others pour out their heart's blood, is clearly a breach of trust. Memorial Hall, where it is possible to congregate beside the blackboards at the entrance, has been particularly complained of in this respect.
Then, at the end of the examinations, it has apparently become the accepted custom for the proctors to announce in increasingly loud voices that the examination is over and all blue books must be handed in at once. As the minutes after the hour fly by, the voices screaming for the return of the blue books become more and more like the noises of ringleaders at the circus, certainly not soothing to students who are putting on their coats and preparing to leave the scene of slaughter. And amidst all this excitement it is perfectly possible for the students who are willing to take advantage of the situation to continue writing for five, and sometimes even seven or ten, minutes after the examination has come to its official close.
What the proctors need to remedy this condition is not a radical change of method in policing the exams, but rather a sprucing up of the existing method. Consideration for others in not talking during the period, alertness in distributing blue books when they are called for, and uniform enforcement of the closing time, with adequate warning, would assure fairer treatment all around. Of course it is obvious that better cooperation from certain parts of the undergraduate body in stopping on time will have to be forthcoming, for the enforcement authorities have not been completely to blame in this. But in general dealings with the students it is not too much to ask that the proctors bear in mind the old Wykhamite motto: "Manners maketh man."