Excuse Me? Who is Paying For This?: Putting College Profs In Check
It has always amazed me that students at the University level do not grasp this one simple concept: “You pay to go to a university. Therefore the University is a service provider. The professor works for the University. They are employees of the service provider who in essence is in your employ. That having been said, why in the world would a student allow a teacher to boss them around? They are not paying the student to be there. The student is paying to be there. Their fees and tuition go towards the professors’ salaries and benefits.
Yet I continue to hear these ridiculous stories, e.g., a professor won’t allow students to be on their laptops during a lecture because many of them are on Facebook, or cruising the Internet, or what have you. SO WHAT if they are. That means two things: 1) The lecturer is boring and can’t hold the attention of his audience, and needs to write to the college that gave him or her their teaching degree and ask for some, if not all, of their money back. 2) The student has paid for something and chosen not to receive it. Education is probably the only thing people pay for and then try not to get. While I liken that to wearing a biohazard suit to get a lap dance–it’s a personal choice. If you go to Starbucks and buy a latte they don’t stand over you and insist you drink. The only thing they insist on is that you pay for it: end of story. A university should be no different.
So if you take a class, and you choose not to attend, that is your business. When I was at Michigan, I used to show up and get the syllabus, then show up for the mid-term and the final, or to hand my papers in. I only went to lectures if there was someone in the class I wanted to hook up with. It was the 70′s don’t judge me. My education didn’t suffer, I graduated summa cum laude and now I’m a doctor (PhD, in neuroscience). So, how much could I have possibly missed because I chose to do who or whatever over a particular lecture. If you truly grasp education, you know the world is an institution of higher learning, every place is a classroom and a lecture is always in progress.
It is a college for gosh sakes, not a high school. I remember once walking into a writing class after grocery shopping. It was a miserably cold Ann Arbor winter’s day and the classroom was between the grocery store and my apartment, so I ducked in to get warm. The teacher said, “Who are you?” I introduced myself. Then he went into a rant about my being late for “his” class. At which point I explained to him that while he was rightfully annoyed, he was at work, which meant a likelihood of annoying events–hence the term “work”, and why you get paid to do it Then I explained that it was not “his” class, but MY class because I had purchased it with my tuition and fees. Thus, I could never late for “my” class, because “my” Class doesn’t start until I arrive. His response was, “finally a student with a brain.” That professor was Robert Hayden, former Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress. I learned a tremendous amount from him, and there is no question that I was his favorite student. I received the only A’s that he ever issued during his career at Michigan. He continued to tutor and mentor me until his death. My point is this: a student has to be passionate about their education. Being submissive and treating yourself like a second class citizen by allowing the help to tell you what you should and should not do is NOT taking responsibility for your education.
Serious teachers do not take attendance, and they do not make petty ego-driven rules like “No laptops or texting during class.” I never had any problem with any of my students playing on their laptops and texting during my lectures because I delivered as a teacher, and they didn’t want to miss a word I had to say. There’s three parts to teaching. 1) Understanding the subject matter, 2) presenting it in an organized manner so that the student can learn, and 3) making it fun and interesting. If you can’t do that, then you’re not suited to teach. Way too many people are calling themselves teachers when they are really just tyrannical small-minded, intellectually tepid people.
The onus is on the student, and on the institution. I have learned that quality of the institution is commensurate with the diminished likelihood of needless, annoying, stupid rules. Brilliant minds do not need to be micromanaged. Micromanagement discourages intelligence and intellectual growth. None of my classes at Michigan ever took attendance, or cared what I did, when and if I attended class, as long as I was respectful of others and performed well academically. At Michigan academic performance was judged by tests, papers and projects, not your propensity to be told when to be where, and what you can an cannot do once you arrive. But then The University of Michigan graduates leaders, not followers. However the University of Michigan is one the best universities in the world, so they concern themselves with the key issues of quality higher education, e.g., cutting-edge research, compelling lectures, state-of-the-art equipment and an academically challenging and stimulating environment populated with brilliant minds and world class experts. Institutions like Stanford, Michigan, Cal-Berkley, MIT and the Ivy’s don’t have anything to prove. Most of the excellence in this world is a result of their excellence as service providers.
Conversely, these little state schools and junior colleges are like the people in radio versus the people in television and film. They are vicious because the prizes are small and few. There’s a greater issue here. Only the elite few get to attend the aforementioned colleges. Just because you don’t go to a Michigan or a Stanford, aren’t you still entitled to be treated with the same level of dignity and respect? Of course you are.
The fact that most of the state schools and JC’s do things like make attendance mandatory or impose “No texting or laptops” during lectures is the ultimate insult to their students’ integrity and to the integrity of the institution. They’re not universities and they are not behaving like universities. They are just high school in college drag. The fact that they present themselves as colleges is fraudulent really. They are not encouraging their students to perform at the university level. They are marginalizing their students by discouraging them to behave like adult university students and become proactive and approach life and their destiny as a force rather than a collateral consequence.
Students at these schools must assume the responsibility for their own education. There is absolutely NO reason to spend four years acquiescing to inane rules and miring in mediocrity just to keep some bullying teacher’s fragile ego company. For what, to walk away with a huge student loan debt, a virtually worthless degree having learned only to be subservient and obedient? Those qualities are not the qualities found in the vanguard, but rather in the middle ranks and rear guard. For an institution to call itself a college and promote a culture that is appropriate, at best, for high school is fraudulent and a misrepresentation of the service they provide. And this is not higher education; this is lower-level crime.