Sequester us the right way

By Rebecca Nussbaum

Quarantine is a practice used by doctors in the Middle Ages and by Harvard-Westlake teachers.

Let me elaborate. Both my biology and physics midterms were morning exams, so to avoid the conflict, my biology exam was moved to the afternoon.

After taking my physics test, I was escorted to the Emery Room, where I was sequestered for the two hours between the exams without my phone to ensure I didn’t talk to any students who had taken the biology midterm.

When I got an email from my teacher the day before my finals reminding me of this, I was annoyed to say the least. The teacher’s hyper— suspicion offended me. I was going to be locked up, treated as a criminal before I did anything wrong.

But my imagination’s unjust quarantine was not realized. I wasn’t treated as a criminal as I had indignantly predicted the night before.

Teachers came in every so often to check on us, but out of concern, not suspicion. Hungry students were escorted to the cafeteria as the rest chattered quietly in the Emery Room.

However, sitting next to me at the table was a student with my same biology and physics conflict, but he took his biology exam first. This means that he’d just taken the biology exam that I was about to take while I’d just taken the physics exam that he was studying for. In effect, the science teachers ensured that I spent two hours with the very student they wanted to keep me from.

I didn’t use my time in the Emery Room to study. I’d finished preparing for the test the night before, and I thought that relaxing would be more useful than extra cramming, so my friend and I exchanged no information.

However, we were curious as to how our predicament had arisen. My friend kind of shrugged, saying that his instructions had been unclear and went back to studying physics.

The teachers were trying to eliminate the temptation to cheat, but somehow they multiplied it. Sitting next to me was a student who held all the answers to my questions. There was nowhere to excuse myself to as there would be in everyday life. We were both stuck in that room for two hours.

If I had been studying, it would have been so easy to look over my study guide and casually ask, “Hey, what should I know about photosynthesis? I didn’t study ecology, does that matter?”

Originally I was angry at the principle of forced isolation, but in retrospect my indignation was immature. My isolation wasn’t painful, and if it prevents cheating, I’m all for it. But sequestering us with the wrong students defeats the purpose of the entire event.

This compromised isolation was likely the result of poor planning. So email students days, not hours, before their final, spelling out the details of their isolation. Maybe send multiple emails if that’s what it takes to ensure that there are no conflicts like mine.

Because if you’re going to sequester us, do it right.