The truth is, if you want to get out of an exam, you can. "Clearly," one administrator says, "it's very easy to get a makeup exam around here. If you're tired, extremely fatigued, backache, sore throat, or any number of aches and pains, you just go to UHS, stand in line, and say you can't function. My understanding is it's like rolling off a log. The only reason more people don't do it is that you have to pay the piper with a makeup exam later on." Most people who bag exams are good students, people who can't stand the thought of a blemish on their average.
If students come to the administrator in a panic before an exam, he tels them to get a good night's sleep. If they come to him in a panic after an exam, he tells them to go to the instructor and beg for mercy, in which case the instructor wil sometimes relent and give an impromptu oral exam for partical credit.
A senior tutor says there's "a lot of illness this time of year--maybe some of it's psychosomatic, but there's flu going around too." She says lots of desperate students come to her office--"But we can't erase things. We can just deal with the realities of situations. Students have 32 half-courses, and failing one won't affect the course of their lives." Still, she says, there are ways out that always work. You can always get gastroenteritis.
At least one Harvard final club has an important file in its club library, faithfully maintained by the club librarian for generations. In the file listed under departments such as "History" and "English," are old term papers for student use. Nearby stacks of Cliffe's and Monarch Notes are stacked up, along with condensed versions of popular plays, etc-the kind with comments in the margins. Unfortunately, says a source within the club, the file has been neglected in the past few years. "Most of the papers are pretty shitty, and most of them are from the 1930's anyway. There's not that much interest in them anymore." Still, certain papers have seen good use. One paper handed in for an infamous gut a few years ago came back from the professor with the comment, "This paper was an A minus the first time I read it, and it's an A minus now."
At five o'clock Monday afternoon it is foggy out and just getting toward dusk, and Memorial Hall looms big and threatening out of the gathering night. Larry White '77 is just walking out, having finished his exam in History 1690, "American Intellectual History," a little early. He has an exam Tuesday morning, an exam Tuesday afternoon, and an exam Wednesday morning. He says he's probably never been so harrassed and pressured in his life. "It'll be nice to have them done with," he says.
Close behind him, in the vestibule by the water cooler, a guy in a western that hat and his friend light a joint as they leave the exam. The hat-man continues to smoke it in the hall by the Civil War Dead plaques, waiting for something. He looks like a good old boy, tall and bearded and tough-looking. Someone asks him what exam he has just gotten out of. He sneers, "Ah, uh...I don't know, there's a whole bunch of 'em in there," and turns around, toking.
Up in the Registrar's Office in Holyoke Center, there's a room called Classrooms and Examinations that's an informal command headquarters for exam period administrative crises. The office is run by Jay Halfond, who is young and looks a little like the actor Richard Dreyfuss. This is the time of year, Halfond says, "that I'm crankier than usual."
Exam period does keep him busy. The phone calls stack up and the procession of problems is endless. Late one afternoon he's on the phone, steady, for an hour, motioning with his free hand while he talks: "Yeah, 20 people missed that one. Yeah, it really does meet at that hour. Yeah, we have to give you a Bio exam at that time, so a proctor will pick you up and escort you there..." He keeps at his fingers a "special case book," a bluebook filled with the names of students who have somehow gotten out of the strict and orderly progression of exam period.
Halfond tries to help people like that, the special cases. On this, "our heaviest day--group five," there are missing bluebooks and sickness in exams. "When there's are missing bluebook we asume somebody just walked off with it," he says. "Sometimes we even go to their room and try to get it--the sooner we can get it, the better it is for the student."
There is a cadre of 60 to 70 proctors--graduate or professional students working for $2.50 to $3 an hour--that Halfond commands nowadays. He gives them an intruction sheet and a few directions at the start of the exam period. If they see students cheating, proctors are supposed to wait until the exam is over to confront them. If a student falls ill during an exam, a proctor is supposed to escort him to the Health Services, wait for a physician's verdict, and call it in to the Registrar's Office. If the student is genuinely sick, he is kept incommunicado in Stillman Infirmary, and allowed to complete his three hours of exam time when he recovers.
The Great All-Nighter