Skillman Library stays open for 24 hours. Students become hunched figures with book spines and laptop backs for faces. Finals week at Lafayette can be stressful, exhilarating, or triumphant. Below is a chronicle of how the opening of this semester’s big test week progressed.
Hoping to help release the valve on the finals week pressure cooker, the College deems Monday a no test day. Instead, Marquis Hall, typically the spot where students go for daily meals, hosts the first ever First-Year Reading Day. From noon to midnight, students come to study, get help from tutors, eat free snacks and get massages.
By 2:30 p.m., dozens have already dropped by. Others opt to fill the corrals of computer tables at the library. Still more finals-frazzled students take the College’s loaner stress-relief dog for a stroll.
“At Marquis, the lighting is good and there’s free food,” says Billie Weiss, project director at the Office of Advising & Co-Curricular Programs, waving at the chandeliers dangling over a table loaded with granola, cookies and soda cans.
Spread out among other lunch tables, students huddle over textbooks and fill the room with murmured conversation.
Two members of the Math Cavalry, a team of tutors who usually make their home in Pardee Hall, sit at tables running through complex equations.
Tom Yuster, an associate professor of math with a mop of gray hair and an Albert Einstein mustache to match, sits across from Ben Adenbaum ’19 scratching calculus on paper and speaking Math-ese.
“… the value of that with Green’s theorem,” Adenbaum says.
“I don’t know what you’re trying to prove,” Yuster says.
“If I do that …” Adenbaum draws an arc between a large plus sign he’s drawn.
“That would be Green’s theorem,” Yuster says.
Is it helping?
“It’s helping me,” Adenbaum says, laughing. “I think it’s annoying Prof. Yuster.”
Last year, at John Jamieson’s dorm at Watson Hall, classmates were always stopping by with complex math questions. Jamieson ’18 was already a resident expert as a freshman.
“So I decided, ‘why not get paid for it,’” he says. He emailed Yuster and landed a job with the tutorial team.
Christopher Selena, assistant dean of Advising and Co-curricular Programs, sits with Dana Filchner, associate director of the ATTIC, at a table that doesn’t teach coursework.
Instead, Selena and Filchner field questions about making finals pain free.
“Are you eating?” Selena asks. “Some of it is time management, specifically for finals.”
Handouts stress the importance of not pulling all-nighters, getting plenty of exercise and eating low fat, high-protein snacks.
It’s the first day of finals and every table at Mojo Hill café is occupied, although few students are eating a panini or swilling coffee products. Instead they are staring intently at textbooks and computer screens, oblivious to any activity beyond their seated perch.
Emily Close ’16 , who claimed the table closest to the window, prime real estate in this joint, is putting the finishes touches on a paper due Wednesday.
“I can’t even go to Skillman Library, it’s so ridiculous,” she says. “There’s never any tables.”
Later in the day, she’ll head to Kirby Library, one of the quietest places to study on campus. “If you talk, they yell at you,” she says, referring to students. “People in Kirby Library are not messing around during finals week.”
Sounds heard in Kirby Library:
Creak of a chair
Tap tap tapping on a computer keyboard
Raven, the 10-month old black Labrador retriever, bounds into the waiting room at the Bailey Health Center and pounces on a fraying stuffed toy.
Jodi Schluter, a physician assistant and Raven’s owner, brings her pooch with her to work on Tuesday through Friday.
“A girl came in today and said ‘I need a study break,’” Schulter says.
She’s seen three or four students so far today who have come by for canine stress relief.
Leo Mackenzie ’18 stares out the window from the second floor of Pardee down to the Quad. Piled in front of him, the graphs and numbers of his macroeconomics notes wait.
Behind him, equations shoot across blackboards like a foreign language. “That’s really advanced,” he says, frowning at the board.
This is the home of the Calculus Cavalry, the team of student experts who help math majors and students wade through numerical worlds. Mackenzie, too, is a math major, but the stuff on the board isn’t his cup of tea.
At the moment, the lounge is empty of humans, although it’s equipped with a coffee maker and printer.
“I have never seen another place like this on campus,” he says.
Through the windows in the doors of the classrooms in the second floor of Pardee, students can be seen sitting at desks and cradling their chins in their palms. Some use earbuds to tune out what little noise there is. Most bury their faces in books. Some lie on their stomachs across chairs, staring at books propped beneath them or frown into laptop computers.
Near the exit sign, Emma Collins ’17 and Leslie Weaver ’17, have commandeered a table, upon which they’ve spread books and graph paper.
What are the two mechanical engineering majors studying?
“Thermo,” Collins says.
And that’s short for …?
“Thermodynamics,” Collins says. Her brow furrows. “I think. Oh my God.” She rummages through her papers. “Yes. Thermodynamics.”
Since 2 p.m., the nook in Pardee next to the entrance has been Lindsey Thomas’ living room/study. On a coffee table are strewn books and her neat script across lined notebook paper. By Friday at 5 p.m., Thomas ’17 hopes to turn the notes into her International Law and Organization paper.
“It took me a while to find this spot,” she says. She started out at Skillman Library but found most spots packed full of students. She hit the uber quiet crowd at the Kirby Library, then Ramer, but no room at the inn. Finally, she settled into the armchair at Pardee.
“It’s crazy,” she says.
A handful of silver-headed patrons line the bar at Milo’s Place on Cattell Street, usually a popular watering hole of Leopards. Most of the stools are devoid of students.
At Cosmic Cup, young faces are illuminated by laptop screen glare – outside, a sandwich board announces the coffee shop will stay open until midnight and invites the bleary eyed for a flash card drill.
A few figures shuffle in the dark between lighted buildings, but silence permeates the campus, save the soft strains of piano music, lilting from the mostly darkened Williams Art Center.
Inside, hallways are empty, doors are locked and windows are dark. On the second floor, behind a windowed door, Dana Lapides ’16, hammers at a baby grand piano, spouting great waterfalls of sound.
It is a Ballade by Frederic Chopin. This is not for finals or credit – Lapides is a math major. She had a recital recently, but that was all music by Hungarian composers.
Her finals aren’t until Friday; she has one in computational math and another in math models.
“I come here every day,” she says, and is often the last person to leave the mammoth arts center, filling the silence with the crashing notes of Chopin.
At the Kirby Sports Center, students play racquetball. Others blow off steam on treadmills or hoist weights.
On the second floor, a trio of students shoot baskets. Nearby, in a wood-floored, sound-sealed room, eight students hold one another and sway in time to music.
It’s a gaggle of freshman and one sophomore, headed up by Andrea Killian ’19.
“I’d say it’s definitely stress relief,” says Thomas Beier ’19. He just finished up a chemistry final earlier Tuesday. Next up is a calculus final on Saturday. So when he got the call from Killian – swing dancing, anyone? – it seemed like a great idea.
Killian has been a jitterbugger for four years. Earlier, a friend from Saratoga Springs, New York, came down to help her teach a class.
“We were swing dancing,” says one of her friends.
“Some of us were,” quipped another. “Some of us were just trying.”
They laugh and head back to hit the books.