BY JEREMY BLACHMAN
Finished. A whole semester of law school, done. It’s weird to remember how much more important this all felt a few weeks ago. As much as I didn’t want to admit it to myself, I was kind of concerned. Exam number one felt like a fairly major event — I went to sleep early, made sure to go to the bathroom the night before so I wouldn’t have to go during the take-home and lose valuable time (I bet someone out there thought about hooking up a catheter), did all the practice exams, and so on. But by exam number three it was just like any other day in the life of a law student. I even decided to only set one alarm instead of the three-clock, cell phone and “TV auto-turn-itself-on-really-loud-to-the-Spanish-channel” combination I’d set for exam number one. I bet that if they compared students’ work from exam number one to exam number three, across sections and across classes, they’d find a tremendous drop-off in quality. There’s tension at the beginning, as much as we don’t want to feel it. By the end, we’re old pros. By next semester, we’ll be going out for lunch in the middle of eight-hour take-homes and waiting at the door of Pound 335 at 3:30 for proctors to start collecting them. Or maybe not.
The one good thing about exams is that they provide a whole bunch of new things about law school to make fun of. Like proctors, Boston accent and Medicare card required. It’s not that these people aren’t well-intentioned. But has it occurred to anyone that the best people to deal with potential problems with laptops and computer disks in exam rooms might not be the elderly? When I have a problem saving a file to disk, my grandmother is not the first person I call. Someone asked if he could burn his file onto a CD, and the proctor said there would be no matches allowed in the exam room. Okay, not really. What the proctor actually said was that in the event of someone burning his file onto a CD, the fire alarm would sound and we should all proceed to carefully save our work, shut down our laptops, and await further instructions. At least the threat of fire is an argument against having us write the answers in paper bluebooks. But perhaps that’s the only argument against it. There doesn’t seem to be a reason why, for an open-book exam, we need to write it in-class on our laptops and then hand in a disk anyway, instead of taking it home and printing it out like the eight-hour exams, or e-mailing it. It’s as if someone decided, “Hey, let’s let them write their exams on computers. Computers are fun!” and that was the entire extent of the planning process.
But that alone might have made it a more carefully considered plan than the take-home exam distribution madness. Again, if I want to efficiently run a process that involves people reading the small numbers on our ID cards and matching them to small numbers on a printed sheet, my grandmother is not the first person I call. No, the first person I call would be her neighbor, who has cataracts, glaucoma, and two eye patches (but still drives at night).
Having every section come get their exams from the same room at the same time also may not have been my first decision. I’m surprised we didn’t get the fire alarm speech there too, considering that the amount of people in Austin Hall was certainly a violation of the fire code. “In case the fire alarm should sound, please remain in line and wait your turn. After you receive your exam, you may proceed to the nearest exit, and stop, drop, and roll. If you leave the line before it is your turn, you will need to go to the back of the line and begin again.” Couldn’t they just e-mail the exam to us at 8:30 in the morning? We’re all headed back to our computers anyway.
So after we’re done, it’s all supposed to be a big relief, right? Sell our casebooks back to the Coop for seventy-one cents each, burn our class notes in a big bonfire — or is that burn the files with our class notes onto a CD? I forget. Maybe I’ll ask my grandmother. She knows all about computers. But seriously, was it really a relief? It all just starts over again. And I’ve still got a summer job to find. Maybe if I put on a gray wig and borrow a walker, I can get work as a proctor.
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