Posts Tagged ‘Exams’

And a Happy Dead “Week” to You, Too

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Searching like Dr. Livingstone for some time to get my work done.

Spring quarter seems to elicit a stifling set of canned interactions near its finish. We talk about our summer plans, remark on how shockingly fast the quarter has gone, ask seniors how it feels to be leaving, do our best to have a fling or two, and then, inevitably, lament the period that threatens to darken every drop of sunlight we enjoy: Dead Week.

Stanford students reserve a special place in their groaning repertoires for Dead Week, and this spring’s version promises not to disappoint. Those hoping for a respite from the typical stress mentioned above can take comfort in the fact that this “week” makes even less sense than usual: one holiday, two packed days of class, one study day, and then exams starting on Friday. We might as well be members of the Amondawa, an Amazonian tribe that according to American and Brazilian researchers possesses no abstract concept of time.

One would think that, under the circumstances, we might get a break for those two little class days so that we could concentrate on our finals. However, Dead Week is so prevalent in our study culture that the Registrar has developed specific policies to standardize its mayhem. Although such standard operating procedures might help during most quarters, they have now crafted an environment of insanity. According to the Registrar Office’s End-Quarter Policy Statement, which addresses the last week before finals, “Major papers or projects about which the student has had reasonable notice may be called due in the End-Quarter Period.” This means that, as is my case, one can have a major paper due on Tuesday and then a final term paper due on Friday in the midst of preparing for exams on the following Tuesday and Wednesday.

The end of the academic rainbow is within our reach. If only it could be this pretty.

No matter how “reasonable” the notice I receive happens to be, this situation is a classic example of an organizational process model revealing its human flaws. Other students may face much more daunting tasks than I, and there is little they can do about it other than complain to the Registrar’s Office, which is famous for dragging its feet in any official academic complaint. One could argue that a sensible student would have planned ahead for the crunch time. I would respond that I planned to the extent that I could, as I would in any other quarter. Unfortunately, this quarter gave me less time to do the same amount of classwork, along with an uptick in non-academic work as I sought, among other things, to secure a job for the summer. The most I could do was plan to be stressed.

So, instead of Dead Week, we now have a Dead Week time-lapse, complete with a new energy drink called “eVolv.” At least the primal scream will sound the same. Although I normally opt for the stoic approach, I may even participate this year, especially if some partially deaf aficionado of electronic music sits across from me in the library with erratic beats emanating from his or her earbuds. If we are loud enough, perhaps someone at the Registrar’s Office will notice.

Finding Romance, Bing-Style

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Peter Bing, '55: Stanford donor, dating expert.

During the last two weeks of each quarter, students flock to Green Library, presumably to study. However, according to Peter Bing, ’55, they ought to gain more from the mass migration than scholarly solidarity.

At the Bing Wing’s rededication in 1999, Bing said, “I hope this wing will always be a place where students will feel secure and where they feel they belong. And I wish that they will always come here, seeking knowledge and hoping to find a date.”

Bing was not shooting from the hip, either. Earlier in his remarks, he noted the pivotal role the library played in his personal life: “The old main library, and especially the reading room with its heavy oak tables and chairs, and its high, vaulting windows, was central to my undergraduate life. It was where we came after dinner, to do our homework, to meet with friends, and to discretely observe someone we’d like to meet, ‘quite by chance,’ when it was closing time and we all left together. For me, shy, and only able to live on campus my freshman year, the reading room…was a secure place where I could feel I belonged.”

Times have changed, however, which means that waiting until closing time is not always enough to break the ice. Thus, in the spirit of Peter Bing, here’s a Top 5 list of ways to meet your match–“quite by chance”–while hitting the books.

5. Bond over YouTube. If you need inspiration, this and this should get you started (h/t James Balassone).

4. Figure out your inner animal. Apparently, I’m a proboscis monkey.

3. Ask the other person what he/she is studying. This sounds rather lame, but you’d be surprised how willing people are to share whatever knowledge they are cramming.

2. Complain together about the loud announcements the librarians make every evening, normally at 8:00pm, 8:55pm, 12;40am, and 12:55am, as if we have never heard them before. If you run out of material, you could always segue to commenting on the absurd or obnoxious behavior of one of your neighbors. Lane Reading Room, with its squeaky chairs and “high, vaulting windows,” offers ample room for opportunity.

1. The old classic: ask whoever is sitting across from you if he/she wants to get Coupa, or offer to buy the person something if he/she is too busy!