Surviving finals week

Everyone who's lived through a finals week has a story to tell: the one about reconstructing a 20-page paper after the computer ate it the night before the deadline; the snowball fight at 3 a.m. on the campus quad; the desperate search for a quiet place to study when friends who have already finished their exams are letting off steam.

On my campus, late-night study sessions were fueled by free doughnuts and pizza from the corner store, and students opened their windows to let out a collective primal scream at midnight.

Student-life officials have come up with some creative ways to make sure people don't get bumped off the finals-week "Survivor" list. Several colleges have declared "stress-free zones," where students can enjoy free shoulder massages, make shapes with Play-Doh, or sip hot chocolate, the Associated Press reports. Calming piano music wafts through dining areas at lunchtime. Yoga classes and candle-lit nap rooms attract students who want to stretch something besides their minds for a while.

One college contacted me to say it had remembered another set of people with weighty workloads this December. St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., is hosting "quiet hours" this week for professors. At the Center for Teaching and Learning, director Kim Mooney and administrative assistant Lori Good decided the faculty might appreciate a chance to escape from their offices and have some snacks while they work.

Professors will even be able to settle in next to a crackling fire to grade stacks of papers.

The only question now is whether they'll be able to resist fueling the fire if they find that some papers aren't up to par.

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