November 9, 2011

Professors: Thou Shalt Read This Column

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Professors at Cornell have probably been doing something right, as they’re some of the most respected people in their fields. In all seriousness, props to them. However, I think that professors can be somewhat out of touch with some of the lecture hall issues that make students a little crazy. With help from my socially networked brethren, I have compiled the Ten Commandments of Professoring.

1. Thou shalt not require thine own writingsI often wonder why professors require textbooks that they authored for their classes. Isn’t it self-serving to require your own writings? Aren’t professors making some sort of profit when people buy their books? I can be privy to a professor’s knowledge of a subject just by asking him or her a question. I don’t see why I should have to pay to buy a book that will say essentially the same thing.2. Thou shalt grant extensionsKeep in mind that most students don’t ask for an extension unless they’re desperate. Denying an extension is like denying a chocoholic Lindt truffles.3. Thou shalt not hide behind T.A.s and secretariesWe didn’t come to Cornell to learn from T.A.s, we came to learn from some of the brightest minds of our time, namely the professors. Although my T.A. might be knowledgeable about the subject matter, if I have a question, the professor should be available to answer it.4. Thou shalt not be deluded in thinking thy class is the only one of importanceProfs need to realize that all full-time students are not enrolled solely in their class. College is bound to be difficult to some degree, but my workload should not be overly disproportionate toward one class. Just because a class is required doesn’t mean that my other classes aren’t equally as important.5. Thou shalt connect with thy students.The best professors make an effort to connect with their students. We LOVE IT when profs make references to memes and currents events, and we love it when profs joke around and tell funny anecdotes. These are the kinds of professors who make me want to go to class, as opposed to it being something that I’m obligated to do. I get more out of a class when I enjoy going and I’m sure other students do too.6. Thou shalt not continue to lecture even though thy class hath ended.If my class ends at 11:00 a.m. and the prof continues to lecture until it is 11:05, she is wrong. The entire 15 minutes between class periods is imperative for some of us to get to our next class. If you dislike it when students come late to your class, don’t cause the same harm to another professor by making us late to her class.7. Thou shalt not make due assignments and prelims in the same week.This is self-explanatory. As Ivy League students we already have a constant stress monkey on our backs. According to the American Institute of Stress, too much stress can cause excessive gambling or impulse buying or other bad things. Professors, please don’t make me into an excessive gambler, I need that money to feed my hummus addiction. But really, please put a 7-day gap between major assignments and prelims for the sake of our sanity.8. Thou shalt not take lecture attendanceAccording to the 2002 Faculty Handbook, “Students have an obligation to be present throughout each term at all meetings of courses for which they are registered.” It goes on to say that students are “held responsible (in subsequent tests) for knowledge of material presented in lecture.” It is not a professor’s job to police student attendance, it’s her job to teach. Students don’t always miss class for frivolous reasons and profs shouldn’t take a large number of absences personally. And participation points are just a passive aggressive way of taking attendance.9. Thou shalt not require more than two books for thy classSometimes I don’t think that profs take students in mind when deciding the number of books for their classes. Textbooks are ridiculously expensive and a lot of them can’t be resold, so I end up with an accumulation of books that I will never touch again. Unless the book is absolutely imperative for students to be successful in the course (i.e. English classes probably have a high book threshold), it shouldn’t be required. Posting readings online is the ultimate solution — as long as you don’t make us print them out.10. Thou shalt honor the sanctity of breaks and holidaysThis is probably the thing that students complain about the most (especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner). Apparently, professors aren’t allowed to cancel the classes immediately before or after academic recesses without special approval from the dean of the school or college concerned. OK, so my professors aren’t allowed to cancel class, but at the very least they could alter the course content for the day before a break so that I — and the rest of the student body who travels for breaks — could get home at a reasonable hour.To clarify, I am in no way saying that it’s OK for students to straight up take the whole week of Thanksgiving off. That’s pushing the boundaries a bit, don’t you think? What I’m asserting is that it’s a total douche move for professors to schedule tests, prelims and other large projects on the day before a break. How craptacular would it be to take a prelim the morning of Slope Day when you know that 90 percent of the rest of campus is already several tally marks into their day of debauchery? No bueno, profs. No bueno.This rule also applies to large assignments given before holidays and due immediately after. It’s called a “break” because I get to take a break from school. It’s not dubbed a break so I can break my forehead open as I bang my head against a wall in frustration, because the time I’m supposed to be spending with my family is spent doing homework instead. My breaks are not an extension of your class time. My breaks should not even be in your homework jurisdiction. Making the due date of an assignment the end of the week following a break is fine; making the due date the Monday after is not.Certainly, this list is not perfect or exhaustive, and I’m sure that a bunch of profs could get together and write the Ten Commandments of Studentry in an equal fashion (do it!). It’s just my hope that professors could work to improve their end of the classroom experience.

Sam Dean is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She may be reached at sdean@cornellsun.com. Casual WTFery appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

Original Author: Sam Dean