It’s that time of year again (the end of a semester), filled with frantic students and teaching staff alike as we all try to get our work done in time for wrapping up the semester. It’s also the time of year when you see memes and videos on social media joking about showing up to your professor’s office hours to try and raise a course grade. Even though they’re funny, there’s also a facet of truth behind them. Students who complain for a grade are very real, and they’re ruining courses for the rest of us.
To be sure, in my three and a half years on campus I’ve encountered some shady professors and lecturers. There are the ones who try to alter the syllabus during the last half of the semester (syllabuses are like contracts for which the student and teacher are expected to abide by). Then there are the ones who don’t respond to multiple e-mails (or respond months later) when you have legitimate concerns that need to be addressed. And there are the one’s who grade you poorly not based on the fact that you defended your positions/opinions but because your opinion was not what they wanted it to be. I’ve even heard of a professor who didn’t believe a girl when she explained that she had been robbed at gunpoint of all of her school and crucial personal possessions. But these instances are rare, and handled properly by program chairs/directors.
I know, we’ve paid astronomical amounts of money for your degree (and that at some point when mass amounts of people default on their student loans in the future the economy is going to take quite a hit, but that’s a whole different column). Still, they call it “earning” a degree for a reason. There’s still work associated with this purchase. And just because part of our tuition payment is allocated to paying University staff and faculty, it doesn’t make us their boss. Imagine what life would be like if people could just buy a degree. The quality and reputation of the degree goes down. Only people with the appropriate amount of funds would be able to have a degree. The negative affects of this are endless. And honestly, a lot of our teachers aren’t being paid enough. Think about it, budget cuts have meant that teaching staff are allocated less supplemental services and materials. For example: less funding means less TA’s to help share the work load as the number of students increase annually, not to mention the increase of students as classes are combined and less staff are available to teach them. And what are your teachers supposed to do about instances like these? There’s a level of complacency they’re supposed to have for reasons related to job security (especially if they’re not tenured), and they need to pay their bills too.
When students decide that they don’t want to do the coursework outlined in the syllabus, and instead contact their teachers for extensions, pardons, extra credit (or more extra credit than what’s already being offered), or special “catch up” sessions when they miss considerable amounts of class, you’re taking time away from their already overflowing plates. This in turn takes away from the time they need to correct coursework and prepare lectures, thereby depleting already thin resources for your peers, and taking away from their learning opportunities and experiences.
I realize that these students aren’t the majority, and that most of us are reasonable and good students. I realize that there are things that happen in life where you need to be somewhere other than class, and that certain inevitable events will prevent you from being able to be as present as you would hope to be. But students who try to take advantage of the system (especially in areas where it’s struggling) is a problem that needs increased recognition because the effects of these occurrences are damaging. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee should also consider providing a space or resource for students who are trying to prevent these instances from happening or continuing. A kind of anonymous student reporting opportunity, for valid complaints, just as they have when a member of the teaching staff has a complaint filed from a student. Or maybe even bringing back needed supplemental teaching materials and services instead of looking to update the Union building and other less crucial projects. My point is this: don’t do it yourself and if you see it or know someone who is doing it, say something. Offer to help your teachers as well as fellow students who might be struggling (if you know they’re missing class, offer to send them the notes/catch them up) if you can. Remember to be kind, and have a good winter break.