Data Dictatorship: How the Police State Has Invaded Graduate School Applications
Note: This was written by a brilliant graduate applicant who chooses to remain anonymous. Read it and weep!
Merriam-Webster defines the term “excess” as “an amount that is more than the usual or necessary amount.” A second, but equally fitting definition, includes “behavior that is considered wrong because it goes beyond what is usual, normal, and proper.” I would certainly describe the inordinate amount of security measures imposed on me during my recent experience sitting for the GRE exam as excessive—to say the least.
But it shouldn’t be a problem, right? Security is a good thing. As a prospective graduate student, I am expected to be quiet, follow orders, and take my exam. I am not to find any part of the security protocol uncomfortable or disconcerting. I could (and did), but I know I wouldn’t dare express my discomfort, as that would mean the end of my ambition to attend graduate school and earn a doctorate. Even if I had chosen to opt-out that morning and choose another testing center (which like Voldemort, need not be named), the security measures for high-stakes testing would remain the same. I am required to present GRE scores in my applications to graduate programs, and as such, forced to accept all of the requirements regarding test day. But what happens when security measures intended to discourage inequity infringe on a student’s right to privacy? What happens when test center protocol intended to facilitate a successful test day, hinder it?
Before I begin a general overview of the process, it is imperative to point out that the proctors at the testing center were helpful and ready to answer any questions I may have had. The draconian policies that they are required to enforce, however, is a different matter entirely.
First, I was asked to familiarize myself (quickly) with all of the test center’s policies and copy a statement in which I promise not share the content of my exam—a standard part of any “official” exam. Then, I was monitored as I placed my items in my designated locker and onlyallowed to keep my ID with me. No writing materials (fine), but no water either (even if you were to bring a spill-proof water bottle). Test-takers waited in line as proctors called each of us one by one through an unremarkable metal detector. All of the above were procedures that did not feel intrusive, yet.
Next, my clothes were examined in case I decided to bring prohibited materials. In essence, I was required to give myself a pat-down as proctors supervised. I had to lift the ankles of my pants so my calves and the tops of my shoes were visible, next my shirt sleeves, and then I had to open and shake every single pocket to prove they were empty. Yes, even the impractical hidden pocket on the inside part of the band on my exercise leggings that I forgot existed (it is big enough to fit a quarter and that’s about it), as one of the proctors so gently reminded me. Then I was led to a hallway in which nervous hopefuls were required to wait outside their particular testing labs until they were With A Brooklyn Accent: Data Dictatorship: How the Police State Has Invaded Graduate School Applications: