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The people you’ll meet: Syllabus Week

| Tuesday, January 14, 2014

‘Twas the first week of classes, and everywhere in sight, students full of excitement, smiles, and delight. They do not know what the semester will bring; a job offer maybe, or the famed ring by spring. There will be months to prove you’re a smarty and spread some good cheer, but for this week we throw a party, and hey kid, pass the, uh, syllabus.“  –Anonymous

I thought about attributing that little ditty to Father Jenkins, but then remembered you’re not supposed to lie, especially about a priest, particularly in The Observer. Regardless, syllabus week has once again graced the lives of thousands of college students, and those lucky souls located in the snow globe of South Bend are no different. But before the semester’s inaugural weekend, students will make the journey to class for a few handouts, and a chance to see if this semester is finally the one their dining hall crush is in class with them. As you set off for DeBartolo, Jordan, a room in some city around the globe or wherever it is engineers go to class, we present to you a preview of several people you’re about to meet.

The Front Row: This consummate professional is ready to tackle not only this second theology requirement, but apparently cure cancer and end global hunger as well. They did the first week’s reading and have color-coded notes. They showed up early, grabbed a seat in the front row and introduced themselves to the professor. Roughly 10 minutes into class, they’ll ask for clarification about whether office hours are on for later this afternoon. Hey Hermione, we get it. You’re getting an A. Give us a break. Be forewarned: if they get the first B+ of their life on that first test, there may well be enough tears to cry a river and drown the whole world.

The Grouch: Almost always a male professor in his mid-50s to late 60s, he’s ready to give our generation a taste of the discipline that “once made this country great.” He relishes making his intolerance for texting in class known almost as much as he enjoys the faces of his students when he announces essays will be written by hand in this class and “not with any of that technology garbage.” He may regale you with a nostalgic tale about the glory years of one Ronald Reagan while silently longing for the days of corporal punishment. His office hours will take place during the convenient hours of four to seven on Friday mornings. And yes, you should absolutely take that as a challenge to go directly from Feve to his office. If there’s one thing college has taught us, it’s that life’s best choices are made in the wee hours of the morning.

The Comedian: The bane of the Grouch’s existence, this self-nominated king of comedy is ready to take the stage. Having honed their jokes on their little brother all of Christmas break, they’re ready to take the classroom by storm and establish their reputation as the funny guy. While they’ll toss out a few jokes that will be met by confused, awkward silence, they may provide some laughs that mercifully break up the steady stream of balance sheets, physiology lectures and again, whatever engineers do, that stand between now and summer.

The Late Kid: He stumbles in 37 minutes into your 50-minute lecture sporting a neck beard that would put Abe Lincoln to shame. Depending on the previous evening’s activities, he may or may not have images of the not-family-friendly variety on his face in Sharpie. He overslept but still managed to make it to class while clinging to that last shred of academic dignity that distinguishes him from the rest of his quad, who are skipping their classes altogether. Sure, he’s in the wrong classroom. Still, give him some credit for trying.

The Laptop: They fell behind on Breaking Bad and they’ll be damned if they’re not going to finish it so they know what the heck everyone is talking about. Braving South Bend’s temperature, they trudged to class with their laptop and ear buds, sat down and promptly got to work. You have to have some degree of respect for the kid ⎯ the professor is literally staring at them and yet they continue on, their casual apathy at a level usually unseen until midterms. They’ll take a Facebook break in between episodes, their squinting at the screen occasionally punctuated only by their laughing at something their friend posted on their wall.

The “Acquaintance”: You, uh, “know” them, but you don’t know them. Luckily, they just sat in front of you instead of beside you and … oh crap, you made eye contact. Were they in your freshman seminar? PE class? Maybe they’re in the adjacent dorm? Of course not. Today is Wednesday, and Wednesday is not your day. They’re the other half of a dorm party rendezvous from last year. You smile awkwardly before scanning the class in desperate hopes of finding someone else to talk to. You turn to your neighbor. You think you’re in the clear. Then the acquaintance’s roommate walks in, sees you two and laughs before announcing to the class, “Oh look, it’s an ND Makeouts reunion.” #%&^.

Matt Miklavic is a junior from Cape Elizabeth, Maine studying ‘abroad’ in Washington D.C. He’s been
seeking an attitude adjustment ever since his middle school teacher told him he needed one. He can be reached at [email protected]
The views expressed in this
column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


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