Schools Training

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Excessive Exam Policing

15 JAN 2014
Career Path : Liberal Arts

Some colleges have gotten excessive regarding the techniques used in policing exams. Alternative liberal arts colleges are more considerate but it is worth thinking about what the general condition says about society.

Preparing for a round of college midterm or finals is beyond exhausting. Often, one’s entire course grade hangs in the balance and the pressure to do well becomes almost unbearable as the exam date draws near. Sleep deprived and anxiety-ridden, candidates file into intimidating auditoriums only to have their blood pressure pushed to new heights by over-the-top security protocols. Unless one is fortunate enough to attend, for example, a small liberal arts college, where faculty know students personally and the atmosphere is more trusting, exam candidates must contend with the impersonal, increasingly suspicious world of mass testing.

Intimidation tactics

A thriving student-teacher relationship is built on trust and mutual respect. Professors encourage students to ask for help if it’s needed, to speak out against injustices they observe in the classroom or on campus, and feel free to express their individuality to the fullest. The school environment should be one in which students feel inspired to grow and excel, supported by a caring academic community. Law and medical schools, business programs, and the alternative liberal arts college – these are all institutions that claim to value inclusion and promote sound ethics. Unfortunately, these ideals may sometimes devolve into empty rhetoric when exam time rolls around. At some colleges, students are made to feel guilty by measures that closely resemble military control tactics:

  • Finger-printing
  • Invasive surveillance, both by camera and by proctors
  • Restricted breaks
  • Limited access to refreshments and restrooms
  • Patted down and searched, including pockets and pants cuffs
  • Ejected under mere suspicion of irregular behavior

Growing societal distrust

To some extent, colleges and universities represent society’s intellectual capacity, our ability to grow, evolve, and engage in critical self-reflection; they are sites of debate where future generations discuss society’s moral, social and political condition. What does it say about the current state of the world if our future leaders are not trusted to uphold a modicum of honesty and integrity? Excessive exam security suggests that we have become increasingly mistrustful, obsessed with the preemptive strike, virtually assuming that students – and people in general – will find new and extraordinary ways to cheat the system.

A legacy of suspicion

Veritas, humanitas, vertus: keywords from the mottos of prestigious American universities.  But it would seem that when it comes down to the crunch, truth, humanity and virtue are in short supply – in both our institutions of higher learning and our society at large. Can we expect our future doctors, IT professionals and liberal arts college grads to fulfill the credo of honesty if while during their tenure as students, they are treated as criminals?  No one would argue that exam security should be done away with altogether – but perhaps we should re-examine the methods and reconsider their implications.

Visit Shimer College for more information about studying at an alternative liberal arts college.