I was getting worried. It’s almost Christmas, and I hadn’t seen one really good “law student meltdown” during finals period. Until today. Today, the good students at Brooklyn Law School provided me with my favorite semiannual experience of following along as a law student cracks under the pressure over email for every one to see. It’s like watching Gollum scamper out on screen and thinking, “Yes, this is why I’ve committed 29 hours to see this movie.”
Allow me to set the stage. It’s a three hour exam: one hour of multiple choice, two hours of essays. The exam is being administered in two different rooms. The proctors are supposed to collect the multiple choice section after the first hour. And that happens in exam room 601. But in exam room 603, the proctors don’t collect the multiple choice; instead, they leave it with the students as they hand out the essay section. So, arguably students in room 603 had two “extra hours” to fiddle with the multiple choice section if they wanted to.
And this caused one Brooklyn Law student who took the exam in room 601 to basically lose his freaking mind and try to start a grassroots campaign to get the multiple choice section nullified.
It’s pretty funny, in a “crazy person loses his s*** in public” kind of way….
I think a normal person would understand that while the proctor mistake is not ideal, it’s not something to make a federal case over. But, when does “normal” describe “law students during finals”? Here’s the letter that our guy, I’m gonna call him Time Cop, sent to his entire class:
Hello Corporations Classmates,
I do apologize for taking up your time during finals, but as you may or may not be aware, a horrific error occurred during our corporations final. I have emailed the administration filing a formal complaint to have the multiple choice section of the exam completely disregarded from the computation of our final grades. The discrepancy between 601 and 603 cannot be ignored, and has led to the fact that there is no fair way to calculate grades for the exam while counting the multiple choice section.
There is no way to quantify the advantage that the students in room 603 received, so we must all ask that only the essay portion of the exam be counted. Below is the email I sent to [Ms. Issue Spotter], the person who alerted us to the error. Please feel free to copy and paste what I wrote in your emails to the administration demanding fairness for all students. The more people that demand that the exam be given, administered, and graded equally, the more likely it is that the administration will not be able to come up with a bogus method that they claim will neutralize the benefit the students in 603 received.
This is what happens when a couple of spots in class rank can mean the difference between getting a job in an office versus giving jobs outside the Barclay’s Center. But sometimes, life isn’t fair.
In any event, the overreaction train has left the station. I choose to read Time Cop’s letter to the Issue Spotter in the same voice as that kid from the AT&T commercial who talks about needing a bigger treehouse for his television:
Dear Ms. [Issue Spotter],
Thank you for alerting us to this shocking error. As a student in room 601, the room where the test was administered correctly, I would like to register a formal complaint that the multiple choice portion of the exam be completely discounted. The fact of the matter is that the students in the other room had an extra two hours to change or complete any answers to the multiple choice questions. Any patterns or discrepancies, or lack thereof, have no bearing on that fact. For example, the grade distribution in the two rooms could look almost identical, yet the students in 603 had two extra hours, and their grades should have been worse. Indeed, the grades in 601 could be higher than those in 603, but in reality they should have been even higher than they are, due to the fact that the students in 603 had two extra hours.
There is no way to retroactively determine fairness when an error like this happens. In fact, this error has made the multiple choice section per se unfair to the students in 601. If even one person changed or added one answer after the first hour of the exam, the section is irrevocably tainted. Since there is no way of proving what happened one way or the other unless every student in 603 comes forward honestly (and there is no way to verify who is being honest), we must assume that there were students who added or changed answers. Because of this it is impossible to fairly determine the grades for that portion of the exam.
I will be talking to the other students from the class to ask that they also file complaints until the multiple choice portion of the exam is completely discounted. It is unfortunate that the proctors in the other room caused this horrendous discrepancy between the test takers, but since they did the only fair and equitable solution is to only count the essay portion of the exam in the final grade. Thank you.
Yeah, when I’m running Above the Law The Law School, emails like this will make me do the opposite of what the guy wants. Because, you know, f*** him. It’s not like half the class got the answer sheet while the other half had to take their exams in the bathroom. The 603 people could have fiddled around with the multiple choice, instead of doing the essays like they were supposed to. The 601 people had to focus on the essays. It seems like a de minimis error to me.
And now it’s time for the part when a classmate tried to calmly talk our guy off the ledge, only to see Time Cop go even more nutty….