Professor, Students Clash on Exam Aids

Chemistry Head Tutor Says Use of Study Sheets Resulted in 'Miscommunication'

In a spirit of "multilateral disarmament," Chemistry Head Tutor James E. Davis told his physical chemistry students that they could only bring one or two pages of notes to exams this year.

In the past, Davis had made his exams "open everything." But students had begun to tote inch-think reams of copied answers to previous exams and problem sets, making it easy for those with the most photocopies to answer any recycled questions.

Yet a battle broke out anyway at Wednesday's final.

Davis said he noticed at the beginning of the exam that some students had brought in many more pages than were allowed and told them to put the excess sheets away.

Most of them didn't he and others said yesterday.


He then asked a second and then a third time, saying he was about to be "angry." Still, few followed his instructions.

Then Davis said he walked the aisles, removing about a dozen students' notes, shocking some of the class.

"I was shaken myself," Davis said. "I have never had to physically take unauthorized papers away from people."

About half the students interviewed yesterday said they were also surprised no one had responded to Davis' three requests, the last which was prefaced with the words, "I am about to get angry."

"I was kind of bothered by the fact that people weren't taking him seriously. Despite having been given the instructions at the previous three tests, a lot of people didn't seem to care," John A. Dooley '96 said. "In some sense, a lot of people were cheating."

Others said that the meaning of "one or two pages" had never been made clear.

"You photocopy ten pages onto one page, so what's the difference?" asked one.

Others said they had been flustered by the commotion and surprised at Davis' behavior.

"He is a really nice guy, and that is why it was so unusual to see him yelling at people," said one student who requested anonymity.

Davis said he did not want to make a scene, but that he did not have many options.

"I am terribly sorry that some people were flustered; it was a high-tension situation," Davis said. "But I don't know what I otherwise could have done. It would not have been fair to leave the excess pages out there."

The incident appears to have resulted from a misunderstanding between students and the professor about what was permissible.

Davis said he believed that two was a distinctnumber. But to many students, it apparently meanta few or more.

"I had four pages," Dooley said. "But I writereally big, so I could have made it two if I'dwanted to."

Although he was shocked, Davis said he is notmaking any judgment about Harvard students' as aresult.

"I love my students," he said. "I enjoyteaching here. I think this was a one-timemiscommunication, but I don't know why."

Davis said that next year he will probablyallow students to take only the textbook into theexam