At almost 22 years old, it’s been a long time since I’ve been babysat — literally and figuratively. The fact that my parents treated me like an adult in most ways years before others probably adds to that, but the reality is that I’ve been in charge of my own academic life since, at least, the beginning of high school.
It seems like every time we moved up from school to school — elementary to middle and middle to high — teachers told us that at the new level we would be held to a higher level of self-sufficiency. We were expected to organize our own work and keep our own schedules. Basically, they weren’t going to baby us. From what I remember, it never seemed to be true and I was frustrated that I was still being treated like a child — precocious middle schooler that I was.
In college, though, it was finally true. We are in charge of our own educations. No one approves our schedules or academic plans, reminds us to do our homework and reading, ensures that we get to our exams or makes sure that we don’t forget to do our papers.
This fact is why I’m so surprised that one of my professors is currently treating our class like children. Personally, I think that as college students it’s our own responsibility to do the work and go to class. In a small, discussion-based class it makes sense to take attendance. Each student’s presence and participation makes a difference in the class. In a 60-person lecture, though, it doesn’t. It probably helps to go to class, but if I don’t, that’s my own choice and I’ll face the consequences.
The same goes for paying attention in class. Obviously taking notes is a good idea. But it’s on the student to do so. It’s most definitely not the professor’s job to make sure I attend lecture and pay attention. If I choose not to do the work, then that’s my business and I’m the one who will have to deal with the ramifications. But I certainly don’t expect to be treated like a high schooler mere months before my graduation.
This is exactly what is happening in this particular class. The professor has threatened to ban laptops if anyone is found doing something other than taking notes. And attendance is taken before every lecture, for all 60 people in the class. We’re required to attend and pay attention.
Honestly, it’s highly likely that I would do both of these things most of the time. But the fact that I am mandated to do so is a little annoying. And as a generally good student with good grades, I think I should be trusted to figure it out for myself.
Frankly, I think it’s a student’s choice to go to class and pay attention. If a student finds they can get by without paying attention or attending class, they should be able to use their time in a more productive way. We pay enough in tuition that we should be allowed to choose how to allocate our time. While class is usually my top priority, sometimes other things like job searches and writing my thesis take priority over paying attention for the entire class or attending at all.
I think that by now, I’m old enough to make that decision for myself. Certainly no one is going to be making that decision for me after this semester. These are the sink or swim years, and professors who insist on babying students aren’t doing anyone a favor.
Erika Mayer is an LSA senior.