Treat students like adults
Letter to the Editor | Friday, August 29, 2014
One crucial part of syllabus week is learning the nuances of your new professors: How strict are the word counts for the papers? Do I need to buy this textbook? Does he/she lecture the whole time or is it a discussion-based class? One of the more frustrating elements of the syllabi this semester is that the grading scheme and mechanism professors have devised seem to be more and more regulatory and elaborate.
As an example, in one of my courses, participation points are given based on a sticky note system in which each comment (regardless of the quality of the contribution toward the larger discussion) earns the student one sticky note that is equal to a participation point. In another course, participation points are distributed by cold calling students who claim to be “present and prepared” for class that day by drawing popsicle sticks with students’ names on them. In a different course, discussion questions must be answered and turned in at the beginning of every class period to ensure that students are doing the readings. In yet another course, the professor requires a copy of the death certificate or the obituary of the deceased for him to grant an excused absence from class for a funeral. In almost all of my courses, professors strictly forbid laptops because they find that students become distracted. These are only a few examples of the rigorous oversight that is infiltrating Notre Dame’s classrooms.
I understand that these rules exist to eliminate grading ambiguity and to discourage students who will take advantage of the system. However, we have now reached a level of over-regulation that has created a serious level of distrust between professors and students, as well as plenty of busy work.
How can our school claim to be a premier educational institution when the classroom environment is in this state? We as students are here to learn and to gain critical skills that, especially for graduating seniors, will translate into various vocations.
Please, professors, put away the popsicle sticks and the sticky notes and get back to the real purpose of education: fostering dialogue in classrooms and guiding critical discussions around a particular topic to create lifelong learners who will leave this place and contribute to the world in a meaningful way.