September 24, 2019

YANG | Rosary and Justice: My Experience During a Bizarre LSAT Emergency

Print More

I brought my rosary to this weekend’s LSAT exam. Instead of having it in my little plastic bag, out of fear that it might not be let in, I wore it on my neck, clear for anyone to see. I must confess that sometimes I am greatly ashamed of my occasional devoutness, for it often appears only in times of hardship when I need petitioning to God. Hate to say it, a part in me almost treated my rosary as an amulet, a divine lucky charm of sorts. I had a few very bad practice tests the day before my exam, so my expectations going in were low. I legitimately thought of canceling my test.

So, you would imagine my initial “excitement” when, nearing the end of the digital LSAT,  the proctor told us the test is now temporarily paused. “There is some technical difficulty, so in the meantime, you can go take refreshments and exit the lecture hall without leaving the perimeter.” Basically, we now have a bonus break.

I was having a better-than-expected performance that day, but a bonus break is always good — or so I thought. A technical glitch had just given me an advantage, however small, over LSAT-takers all over the world. Sadly, the rosary on my neck did not remind me how myopic my way of thinking was. Silly as I am, I really didn’t think the test would be cancelled.

You could feel the entire lecture hall gasp when we all began to realize that we had just wasted three hours of our Saturday morning. I almost burst into laughter — not out of joy, or out of anger, but out of genuine bewilderment. The decision that the test will be cancelled was not passed on to test-takers immediately; proctors initially wanted to scan the tablets of a few students in the front row, with many of us still perhaps thinking that we could still finish the test. Thus, the students initially refused to hand in their tablets, thinking that their score may be sacrificed to fix the problem. Written guarantees were demanded, legal arguments ensued. After all, it was a room full of prospective lawyers.

After shock and denial came anger. Tension ran high. Some started crying. Others continued their verbal protest with the proctor, who perhaps also never encountered a mess like this. After all, this was only the second time the LSAT had been offered digitally. Everybody was distraught. I, clinging on to my rosary with a silly grin on my face, was still trying to process the situation.

What knocked me out of the stupor was when the head proctor, without any prior warning, told one student who was arguing with her that she was going to name him for a potential disciplinary report. Though she was naming him specifically, it was clear the warning was for us all. We shall not argue further, nor shall we ask for more information. Here are a number and an email. Leave your fate to God.

The man who was to be written up was clearly beaten down. He begged her to change the decision, almost pleading for clemency. This was a man who thought his legal career might be brought down by a reasonable reaction he had to an unprecedented situation. The head proctor did not bother giving a response to him, only telling other test takers who tried to defend him that this is explicitly “between him and me.”

In retrospect, the proctor was under immense pressure, too. This was unprecedented for her. She perhaps interpreted test-takers’ reasonable dismay as an affront to her personally, that she is to be held responsible. That said, power — absolute control — is always tempting, a rush to the head for those who wield it. We all sometimes are tempted by the desire to be little dictators, whether it be managing the toll booth at the NJ Turnpike or proctoring an LSAT exam. After all, according to LSAT regulations, the proctor has sole discretion in what constitutes disruptive behavior, and no electronic devices are allowed in the lecture hall, meaning that any violation committed by the proctor cannot be recorded in any proper way. They control all the line of events. We are screwed.

The desire for justice is really not something that comes and goes. It builds, accumulates bit by bit, until it becomes overwhelming. I wanted no trouble. I also want a legal future. As time dragged on, I tried to push away that fleeting desire in my heart to stand up for the man singled out, or at least to ensure test-takers can effectively organize so that the proctor cannot arbitrarily decide whatever she wants. If not me, then who else? After all, isn’t the reason why we want to become lawyers, a profession that is ultimately a public service, the pursuit of justice? If not now, then when? What I initially brought as merely an amulet for my selfish hope of divine guidance now became a testament to my morality. Either I do something in a calm and proper manner, leaving no excuse for the proctor to penalize me, or I sit here and do nothing.

I chose the former. I passed around my emails to students and asked the proctor for her name and proctor certificate ID. She promptly provided me with the details. I also saw her writing my name down. For what purpose, I do not know.

Maybe I shouldn’t have brought my rosary to LSAT. After all, I might’ve not potentially destroyed my career just to keep my conscience clean.

Weifeng Yang is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at weifengyang@cornellsun.com. Poplar Sovereignty runs every other Wednesday this semester.