Student offers free hugs outside Testing Center exit

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Test scores are not longer displayed in the Testing Center, but there is a new addition the the building: a hugger.

Darrell Russell holds a “Free Hugs” sign outside of the Testing Center in hopes of cheering up BYU test takers. The Testing Center recently changed its policy of showing test scores on monitors in lieu of posting scores online. (Jordan Murray)

Darrell Russell, a 22-year-old BYU student from Idaho, stands outside the Testing Center three times a week to give out free hugs.

“It all started after I took a test and it went really poorly. I felt really bad about it,” Russell said.

After he went home, Russell found a YouTube video about a guy giving out free hugs. “I thought, ‘I could have really used a free hug after that test, why don’t I do that for other people?'”

Russell stands outside the exit of the Testing Center three days a week for an hour, depending on his schedule and how much homework he has. He now clocks in at 60–75 hugs per hour.

“It’s been quite enjoyable,” Russell said. “I see a lot of people smiling at me when they come out or they give me hugs or high fives.”

The strangest encounter Russell has had was with a guy who hugged him for over half a minute. But more commonly, Russell said it’s rewarding to see people coming out of the Testing Center a little bit happier than when they went.

Struggling to find purpose after returning home from his mission, Russell said he feels a lot more content after starting his free hugs hobby.

“I feel like I’m actually starting to give back and making other people’s days. I just feel happier, simply. You find happiness in service,” he said.

BYU senior Dylan Lamb has seen Russell on many occasions. “I think it’s weird, but I do support giving out more hugs,” Lamb said. “I definitely would not do something like that, but serving each other makes the world a happier place.”

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Despite the cold weather coming ahead for Russell, his hugs shows no signs of slowing down.

Darrell Russell gives out a “Free Hug” after holding a sign outside of the Testing Center in hopes of cheering up BYU test takers. The Testing Center recently changed its policy of showing test scores on monitors in lieu of posting scores online. (Jordan Murray)

“I plan on doing it as long as I can. Until I get a girlfriend. Who knows,” Russell said.

Free Hugs may be a temporary installment, but the scores not being shown at the Testing Center is permanent.

According to Bryan Bradley, the Manager of Academic Assessment at the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Testing Center Administrative software was rewritten to replace the outdated administrative system they had been using for many years before.

“The new system did not include a utility that would send scores to the monitors,” Bradley said. “Because student scores from scanned bubble sheets are immediately made available on the Testing Center website, we decided to not invest further programming resources to separately send scores to the outdated monitors.”

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Bradley explained that soon, students will have access to their scores on smartphones through the Y app.

“This is in addition to the existing capability for students to see their scores online immediately after their bubble sheets are scanned (if the instructor has allowed for this),” Bradley said.

Students can access those scores by logging into testing.byu.edu. 

For Thomas Stone, a junior at BYU, the change came as a surprise. “I remember coming back to school, walking down the stairs and seeing no numbers there. I was distraught,” Stone said.

Stone said he believes the results being displayed were good because you could instantly see your score, walk out and be done. “Honestly though, it doesn’t affect me that much,” Stone said. “I was confused why they took it away, I didn’t see the point. But if it can be accessed on your phone, it’s just as easy to see it. It’s not that big of a deal.”

Bevan Blake, a senior at BYU, agrees the change is different but not life changing. “It was really nice when it was on the screen, but I’m not losing sleep over it,” Blake said. Blake would like if the scores were put on the Y app, explaining that it is a hassle to log into the Testing Center website.

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“It is sad though,” Blake said. “It was part of the experience. It was part of what the Testing Center was, part of it’s charm. You know, waiting to see scores that were lower than yours to help you feel better. You don’t get that anymore.”

Gabriel Lee agrees that having the scores on the Y app will make it more convenient for students. But Lee loves the Testing Center despite the changes.

“When I walked in for the first time, I was like, ‘this is Hogwarts, this is awesome.’ Something about the room really did it for me,” Lee said. “I will be sad that I won’t be able to see if I did better than someone who had a candy bar left for them though,” Lee said.

Whether you are a fan of free hugs or Testing Center policy changes, we can all agree on one thing: seeing “Great Job!” next to your student ID number is a confidence booster that will be sorely missed this testing season.

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