I am a junior, which means I have written many eight-to-10-page papers in one night. To be honest, I wrote a 20 pager in one night last year (something to brag about, huh?).
But the other night, I flipped out. I was writing an eight-to-10 pager due in two days and I just started bawling in the middle of it. Problem was, and still is, that somewhere in the middle of writing this paper I developed academic values (scary, I know) and a priority to produce quality work, as opposed to the fast-food kind.
All this crying and feeling stupid over crying led me to call my friend at Harvard (the only other school, by the way, to administer final exams after the holidays). She called back and left me a voice-mail, reciting a quote she has up on her wall on a pink post-it note. It was a message taken down by her roommate from her father during her freshman year. It says, "I love you. I don't care if you turn in crap."
Here is my moral dilemma: I do not want to turn in crap. I know I can turn in crap; I know I can turn in a crappy paper to my professor tomorrow without a problem. I'll pull an all-nighter along with the rest of my class and maybe even get a decent grade because of our deflating inflation, but it will still be crap because it will be written in a sleep-deprived ridiculous state of thoughtlessness.
What is my point? Am I just another bitter, overworked junior who wants fewer papers? No. I am a student who found out that I developed a priority to learn and write intelligent papers at a very bad time because I have three major papers due tomorrow and I do not want to turn in crap. I actually want to think about these papers and do a good job and get something out of them.
I propose that if if a student has, for example, four papers due in a two-day period, she or he should get the same option a student with four exams in two days would get: a change. Professors are not monsters (well, not all of the time) and do give extensions in extenuating circumstances. But that can put them in the awkward and unfair position of having to examine what is fair to the rest of the class, if the student has a valid excuse and whether or not the professor can handle grading something during an unexpected time period. No questions asked, no painfully long emails with explanations, just an understanding that we are here to learn about interesting material – not how to write as many pages as possible in as little time as possible.
So then, what are we here for? Someone arguing from a pre-professional stance could read the last line of the last paragraph and ask, "What do you think the real world is all about?" This translates to, "When I get to my consulting firm, I need to be able to crank out those pages." But I do not plan on going into consulting and have mastered turning over lots of decent to not-so-decent pages in a short period of time – and I am sick of it.
Maybe I have it all wrong and I have figured out exactly what college is about already, so I should stop writing this column and write my papers so I can get the B that will get me into somewhere else so I can go onto something better. If this is the case, please, can a higher power at this University warn us in pre-frosh admissions materials so I don't ever have a night like last night again?
I know that some professor, maybe mine, will read this and ask why I didn't start the papers earlier, and my answer is twofold: First, I did. I wrote one of my papers last week. Second, believe it or not, I have enough extracurriculars and regular academic work to keep me busy without papers, and over break I want a real break – not more reading period. Wait, one more: And I'd like to remain sane, something I lost sight of for a minute. Maybe the goal of a paper should be to learn, not to mass-produce poorly written pages.
(Anna Levy-Warren, a guest columnist from New York City, is a junior in the history department.)