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Classic Signals: ‘Fight the Final’ in protest

The College’s reaction to the Bible Believers’ demonstration is a reminder of students’ willingness to stand up for their beliefs, regardless of what the issue may be. In 1990, students protested against a policy that mandated all courses have a cumulative final exam that made up between 30 and 60 percent of the final grade. Students argued that one exam should not have such a heavy impact on their final average and that the change in policy, which according to one professor was “plotted in some administrative cabal around a boardroom in Green Hall,” was not transparent enough.

Students believe that one exam should not determine their grade. (Photo courtesy of the TCNJ digital archive)

Several hundred Trenton State College students loudly protested the College’s mandatory cumulative final exam proposal in a “Fight the Final” rally last Wednesday in front of Green Hall.

The hour-long protest began with a singing of the national anthem and featured chants, banners, a short sit-in in in front of the academic affairs office, as well as several speeches which roused the crowd. Dr. Hal Hogstrom, professor of communication and theater, was especially notable in a speech where he condemned the college administration as “the most arbitrary, autocratic and authoritarian of all the ones I have seen.”

Hogstrom lambasted the plan as “ill conceived.” Under the proposal, all classes next semester will have a mandatory cumulative final exam which will count for no less than 30% and no more than 60% of the final grade. Hogstrom listed three reasons why he felt the proposal was a bad one, attacking the way “it was foisted upon us,” saying it would seriously damage the duality of learning, and saying it  was a dear violation of academic freedom. Expanding on these three complaints, he said, “policy should be shaped in Macy’s window, not plotted in some administrative cabal around a boardroom in Green Hall.” He went on to question how, when and where the decision was made saying “suddenly there it was, like some exotic fungus.”

Hogstrom also said, “Learning rammed into a short period is far inferior to learning at a moderate pace over a period of time.” In decrying the plan as an attack on academic freedom, he said that students from all over the world come to American colleges to learn because of the academic freedom here, and said that is why professors here “get upset when our administrators begin to act the way administrators in Eastern Europe used to act.”

Hogstrom closed by saying, “perhaps at last [this protest] is sounding a tune that can even be heard within the walls of Green Hall,” and he called for a dialogue between the students and the administration. Hogstrom was often interrupted with applause and cheers and seemed pleasantly surprised at how well the students reacted to his speech.

SGA President Mike McCormick also spoke, comparing the administration to “Big Brother” and he pointed out that Harvard University had determined that cumulative exams were not useful. “If Harvard is saying that,” he said, “who are we to say no?”

Several students held posters at the rally, such as, “I’m going to transfer,” “Two study days are bullshit” and “Leave my ‘test’icles alone.” One bed sheet banner portrayed a grade “A” egg on the left side which said “this is your brain.” On the right side was a broken egg labeled grade “D”, and was captioned, “this is your brain during cumulative finals.”

After the speeches, the students circled the building a few times, chanting, “Fight the Final!” and other slogans. They made a point to stop at the back of Green Hall, where the office of Dr. Eric Brucker, vice president for academic affairs, is located. Several window curtains in several offices were then closed by people inside. Dr. Brucker was believed to be meeting with members of the faculty senate at the time of the rally. The faculty senate has also come out against mandatory cumulative final exams. Dr. Brucker was unavailable for comment.


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