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After last Tuesday's prelims were canceled, students adjust to prepare for exams this week.

November 16, 2021

After Cornell Unexpectedly Postponed Prelims Last Week, Students Adapt Study Plans

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Last Tuesday, students studying in libraries and on their way to office hours were disrupted by a CornellALERT, notifying them of a police search for a “man with [a] gun” in Cayuga Heights. The search spurred a shelter-in-place order that included North Campus and lasted more than five hours — prompting Cornell to postpone all prelims scheduled that night. 

Twelve classes had prelims scheduled for Tuesday evening, according to the University registrar website. Additionally, several other classes postponed prelims and other assignments scheduled later in the week to accommodate the disruption caused by the shelter in place and by a bomb threat, later deemed “not credible,” which occurred the previous Sunday. 

As the series of emergency alerts hit students’ phones on a prelim-packed week at the height of the semester, these threats interrupted preparation time last Sunday and Tuesday. As most prelims were only postponed by a few days, these exams are now once again upon students. 

“We have no time to take for ourselves … We have prelims to study for,” said Pedro Da Silveira ’25, who is also in the Student Assembly. He sheltered on North Campus on Tuesday and had his exam postponed to this week.

“Now I’m paying the price,” he said, since he’ll take three exams this week. 

Darshana Subramaniam ’24 had two exams rescheduled as a result of Tuesday’s events — an Industrial and Labor Relations 2600: Human Resource Management exam on Wednesday and an exam for Industrial and Labor Relations 2350: Work, Labor and Capital in the Global Economy on Thursday during class. 

Subramaniam explained that since the police search and shelter-in-place order prevented her from returning home to North Campus Tuesday afternoon, she stayed in Ives Hall for several hours. The chaos of the afternoon also made it hard to focus and prepare for her exams.

“I couldn’t physically study,” Subramaniam said. “I was getting calls from a lot of people, like my parents, my sister and my friends from other schools.”

Subramaniam said she received notifications from her professors from both classes on Tuesday night after the shelter-in-place order was lifted. Her human resource management professor gave students the option to take the exam as scheduled on Wednesday or to take an alternative prelim with different questions the following Monday during class, noting in an email to the class that “even with the best case outcome, the emotional toll is and has been real”. 

Her work, labor, and capital in the global economy professor rescheduled the exam entirely and moved it to a take-home format, citing the stress and anxiety many students were experiencing. For Subramaniam, this eased some of the exam stress and allowed her to change her study methods. 

“Essay questions in a take-home format are a lot less intense,” Subramaniam explained. 

Fajr Ali ’24 had her quiz for Physics 2207: Fundamentals of Physics I moved from Wednesday Nov. 10 to that Friday. She already had a Biology 1440: Introductory Biology: Comparative Physiology prelim moved from Wednesday Nov. 10 to the following Monday due to the bomb threat. 

According to Ali, the shift in her exam schedule helped her feel more prepared. While she went about her daily routine under the gunman alert, Sunday’s bomb threat prevented her from studying. 

Steven Urdaneta ’23 was supposed to take a prelim for Operations Research and Information Engineering 3300: Optimization I on Tuesday evening. The next morning, his professor announced that the exam would be moved to Saturday. Not expecting a weekend exam, Urdaneta was supposed to be at the Cornell-Dartmouth football game with the marching band. Luckily, Urdaneta said his professor was accommodating, giving him an extension to the following Tuesday. 

Urdaneta said that while he had already started studying, the delay gave him extra time to brush up topics he needed more time to study.

“Especially since I’m sure that the exam wasn’t remade last minute, it’s not like it was going to be any harder than it was [last] Tuesday,” Urdaneta said. “Despite it being a very unfortunate event that caused it, I think [the delay] worked in my favor.” 

Katherine Esterl ’24 contributed reporting.