A Day in Lawrence History: March 6

Ah, finals week. The time has come for midnight breakfasts, 23-hour quiet hours, and crying literally everywhere. But of course, finals are not a new institution. Lawrence has had finals since its inception in 1847, just like every other educational institution out there. Let us take a quick look back about 70 years and see how Lawrentians fared then. 

1946 – Poor Jean Olson. A freshman at Milwaukee Downer about to face her first round of college exams, she laments the 24-hour day and wishes for 25 so that she might play a game or two of bridge to relax herself. Alas, it is impossible to relax with Spanish verb tenses rushing through her brain and refusing to anchor themselves. How can the upperclassmen possibly tell the freshman that it is not all bad? How could they lie and not allow freshman to properly mentally prepare themselves? I think the only lie being told here is that bridge is relaxing. 

1949 – The Bard himself has something to say about finals: boo! Some clever and likely very stressed students found that many of Shakespeare’s quotes from plays such as “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Macbeth,” fit with situations directly relating to finals. Lady Macbeth’s famous “out, out damn spot!” for example, is reminiscent of what a student might say if, and when, they spill their ink. Because yeah, in 1949, they still used ink pots. How vintage. Today, maybe, the spot could be a printer malfunction, or someone’s pen leaking. Or, you know, tear stains.

1956 – Oh no! Exams are now only two hours long instead of three hours long, and the exam period will last only five days instead of the usual seven! Chaos erupts among students and professors who worry that they will not have enough time to properly administer and/or take the test. But wait — why do exams usually take an entire week? Our exams take three days! 

Well, I guess it is time for a little history lesson. Ahem. The Lawrence University Honor Code (IHRTLUHC) was not established until 1962, and until that point, all exams were given in Alexander Gym and proctored. Since there is only one gym, only one exam could happen at a time, hence, seven full days of three-hour exams, or this year, five days of two-hour exams. At this point, Lawrence was also still on the semester schedule, as opposed to the three ten-week terms we all know and love. 

So are we better off now? Did the Lawrentians of the past cope better than we do? Should we take a page out of their book and all learn bridge? I hope not, I hate bridge. I would rather enjoy just randomly shouting Shakespeare quotes at my professors when I get stressed. For now though, I think I will just continue to lie to freshman about how not stressful finals are.

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