Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Exporting exams: does it kill the chemistry?

For many General Chemistry students, having to take the first test of the year at 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon was aggravating, but the cross country runners enrolled in the course had an extra dose of agony. The cross country team was scheduled to leave at 12:30 p.m. for a meet in Salem, Ore. and the athletes who were enrolled in General Chemistry worked weeks beforehand to negotiate a testing situation which would allow the bus to leave as planned.

Cross country coach Scott Shields contacted the Chemistry Department and arranged for all but three of the athletes to take the test early in the morning. Shields offered to proctor the chemistry test for the remaining students at their hotel room in Salem.

“We didn’t want the students to take their exam on the bus, so we recreated a space for them to take the test in a private room in the hotel,” said Shields.

After arriving in Salem, the students took their exam at around 8 p.m. on the night before their race. First-year Annie Watters, who was among those that took the exam, wasn’t able to get to bed until she finished the test at 1 a.m. The athletes had to be up by 7:30 a.m. the following morning and Watters found herself, “dreaming in numbers and equations,” rather than getting mentally prepared for the race.

First-year Skye Pauly didn’t think taking the test in a hotel room was so bad.

“Taking the test [in a hotel room] actually wasn’t too bad except for the party going on in the hotel room next door to us,” she said.”I think the situation was fair considering we couldn’t have taken the test otherwise.”

Most of the cross country runners who took the General Chemistry test were first-years, and for many of them this was their first  college  test.  Those athletes who were able to take the test before leaving campus had the anxiety-inducing burden of making sure they were packed and ready to leave while squeezing in a study session the night before.

The students do not have their test results back; they will soon find out if the hectic testing situation had an impact on their performance.

Testing situations like this are uncommon but are not unheard of.

“All coaches at some point in their career have to proctor tests,” said Shields, who was also the Whitman’s women’s soccer coach for eight years. “And it’s not just coaches; any professor who takes kids away for long periods of time has to be responsible for making sure students are accountable for the same work as their peers.”

Senior Kristen Ballinger opted to take an organic chemistry test she missed while on an airplane on her way to the national cross country meet last year.

“I could have taken it at the hotel but chose to take it on the plane after I had raced. It was more stressful and difficult to concentrate . . . taking the test was an extra thing to worry about leading up to the race,” said Ballinger.

Like the first-years who had taken off-campus exams, Ballinger felt that taking the test while traveling was the best compromise. But she also expressed doubts.

“Because coaches are so willing to proctor tests, it puts students in a position where they may be encouraged to make the wrong decision for their own well-being.”

As Whitman students strive to balance their academic commitments with their extracurricular passions, inevitably situations like these will arise in which no choice seems truly optimal.

Ballinger offers one word of advice to any student considering taking an exam while off campus.

“Never choose to take a test [in] a moving vehicle.”

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