At Harvard Law School, exams come early. First year students will take an exam on Thursday that will determine one of the semester's two grades, while Harvard undergraduates are still in the first week of reading period.
Yesterday, the school's main reading room was filled with cigarette smoke, and its tables were littered with soft-drink cans and thermoses. Some of the first-year students studying there were truly nervous. Others were playing it cool.
Tension is high because first-year grades are the prime basis for elections to the Law Review and a student's application for a summer job after his second year. The Law Review and summer jobs can be major career stepping stones.
Tension is "much worse than at Harvard, because everybody is gunning to do really well," Elizabeth H. Munnell '73 said. She added that with exams right after Christmas, "Your vacation is totally worthless."
Munnell said studying exclusively law deepens the anxiety because law starts to "permeate your thinking--I wake up at night thinking law."
Exams after Christmas also ruined the vacations of William W. Fisher and Ellen R. Werther. He returned to study on December 28, and she came back Christmas day.
Most students at the library said they were not panicked or nervous. George A. Berman '75 said the tension is overstated and added, "The level of neurosis is much lower than it is among the undergraduates."
"Everyone's taken a lot of exams before they get here," Berman said smiling. "Most anxiety is self-induced. Eighty percent of the class expects to be in the top 50 per cent."
Several students said that because almost everyone gets about a B plus, there was no reason to worry, and some said they were taking it easy. Others said because they had worked steadily, there was no need to cram.
Thomas D. Balliett '75 said, "This is the seventeenth year I've been in school, and somewhere along the line worrying about grades has to stop."
Three upperclassmen remembered their first-year nightmares and expressed skepticism of this year's easy-going attitudes.
"Nobody wants to admit they're paranoid," David S. Goodman, a third-year student who remembered his first year as the worst of his life, said. "If you don't feign calmness, you go out the door," he added.
Roger Bernstein, another third-year student, said he thinks younger professors have made an effort to tone down the tension.
Charles R. Nesson '60, professor of Law, said he thinks tension is down considerably from 1969, when the major focus of student politics at the Law School was a fight for pass-fail grading is students' first year.
Meanwhile, at Cambridge's Holiday Inn, the man behind the desk said so far no law students have asked for quiet rooms to study. Last year, he got six requests