Sunday, March 14, 2010

Poor Setting for a College

Cornell has had 3 suicides recently. Suicide and Cornell have a terribly long history together. Problem is that Cornell was founded and built along giant gorges that are remarkably beautiful but offer instant death. People take exams, think they bombed and therefore their future life will be horrible, and then have to walk over bridges that span these deep chasms. The more impulsive amongst us would find it tempting to jump at that very moment and know they will die and end the 'pain'.

Part of this is the pressure people put on themselves, and I think a small part of this is the demoralizing method in which some professors test students. Peers at other schools would tell me how their classes had exams with an average grade of 75 or 80. The average score on exams would sometimes be below 50. As a senior I asked a professor about this and his rationale for what he called 'tough testing' was that the students were so smart if he made the exam easy everyone would score over 90. If he knew it was tough, he'd had an even distribution of scores which he could grade on a curve and determine who was an A, B, C, D, F student. Rarely could he make a test with a 75 average and even distribution. It was balancing on a knife. I saw his point, but I also remember the walks back from midterm testing with friends dejected about their estimates of a 40 or 50. They would find out a week later the average was a 40, but for that walk across the gorges, they would be crushed. None of my friends would walk back alone as frosh or sophs. As upperclassmen, we knew one grade was not the end of the world. For an 18 year old used to acing all tests and away from home with maybe some demanding parents back home, I can see why that walk would be a hard one to survive.

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