Skip to comments.Welcome to Civility 101
Posted on 01/05/2004 10:14:06 AM PST by Atlas Sneezed
Welcome back! I hope you had a good Christmas break (or Kwanzaa break, or whatever you celebrate). Mine was great but now its time to get back to work as we kick off a new semester. Those of you who have had my classes before need to pay close attention to this memo because I am changing some of my class policies this semester. Specifically, I am changing the way that I deal with those who interrupt class by either walking in late or by allowing their cell phones to ring during a lecture.
At the end of last semester, I decided that something had to be done about this diminishing level of respect shown by students towards their professors and their fellow classmates. This decision came shortly after I sat in on another professors class. While I was listening to a 75-minute lecture, the students interrupted the professor at least 58 times before I lost count.
First, a student came in class three minutes late. Then another student came in 15 minutes late. Then another student came in 25 minutes late. Then the first cell phone went off. Then the second cell phone went off. The other 53 interruptions were variations of what was that again? and could you repeat that? A raised hand accompanied none of these 53 interruptions from daydreaming students. They just shouted at the professor to get his attention. And they didnt seem to care whether he was in the middle of a sentence. Interestingly, most of these students were in their third year of college.
I havent ever had a major problem with the hand raising issue. I just dont answer students questions if they dont raise their hand. But the cell phone and tardiness problems have exploded over the last five years or so. Most of my liberal colleagues have just allowed these problems to get worse. No matter how bad it gets, these PhDs just cant seem to find a solution. Actually, that isnt fair. They could find a solution if they wanted to, but they just dont like imposing their own truths upon their students, who may live according to a different set of truths. And, of course, being disrupted by late students with cell phones gives them something to whine about during department meetings.
As most of you know, I take a different approach to these problems. First, I shut the door at the beginning of each class period. Then, if a student walks in late, he (it usually is a male, no offense to tardy feminists) gets three points deducted from his final average. If his cell-phone rings (no offense to co-dependent feminists), I deduct three points from his final average per ring. And if she (sorry guys, it is usually a female) actually answers the call, she fails the course. And, last semester, I actually started deducting points from the students average if they (regarding gender, this is a closer call-no pun intended) are merely in possession of a cell phone. But, unfortunately, last semester, four different students let their cell phones (which were hidden in their pockets) go off in class. All four were one-ringers. I also had one student in each class who decided to repeatedly come to class late.
In light of the on-going problems with tardiness and cell phones, I am going to modify my class policies this semester. I am not going to follow the advice of my anti-war colleagues who think that we need to talk to tardy cell phone people in order to find out why they hate us. Instead, I am going to let them do most of the talking. The specifics of my new policy follow:
If your cell phone goes off in class, or if you are late to class, you must write a 2500-word paper (minimum) entitled The Death of Civility at the Postmodern University. In this paper, you will be asked to write about the decline of civility in our public universities in recent decades. Please note that if you are late more than once, or if your cell phone goes off on more than one occasion, your paper must be a minimum of 5000 words. If you have three separate transgressions, you automatically fail the course. Finally, the paper must be of A quality in order for you to stay in the course. You will receive no other credit for completing this project, except, of course, for its positive impact upon your character.
Since you have probably never written on this subject, and since the paper is fairly long, I have listed a couple of suggestions to help you get started and to help you fulfill the minimum word requirement. These suggestions are not exhaustive, nor are they mandated, but I think they will be helpful.
Suggestion #1. Interview a person who was alive during World War II. Ask them the following questions:
1. How often did students walk into class late when you were in school? 2. How many of your failures in school were the result of a lack of nurturing by your teachers? 3. Did your teachers spend a lot of time boosting your self-esteem and soothing your inner child, even when you failed to adhere to the rules of the classroom? 4. Did any of your teachers ever suggest that punctuality was an antiquated Western notion with racist, sexist, and classist overtones? 5. Did students ever get up and leave in the middle of a lecture if they had to go to the bathroom, without asking the permission of the teacher? 6. Did students ever take long potty breaks in the middle of exams, without asking the permission of the teacher? 7. Did students ever get up and leave class just because they were bored? 8. Did you ever appeal a test score in front of the entire class or help other students do the same? If so, did you predicate your complaint with hey Dr. Ummm, or dude, you ripped me off. 9. Did you ever interrupt a professor to ask whether what he was saying was important or whether you had to know it for the next test? 10. Did people actually manage to finish school without having a cell phone with them at all times?
Suggestion #2. Interview an employee at the Office of Campus Diversity or any professor currently teaching in the social sciences or humanities. Ask them the following questions:
1. Is it possible that the diversity movement, with its emphasis on moral relativism, causes students to dismiss the rules a professor establishes with regard to appropriate class conduct? 2. If it is good to refrain from judging other people, doesnt that mean that we should stop expelling people for plagiarism? 3. Isnt the statement it is good to refrain from judging other people itself judgmental? 4. Is it possible that liberal professors who teach that people are not responsible for their own behavior unwittingly encourage their students to engage in anti-social behavior such as compulsive tardiness? 5. Is cheating wrong just because a professor says it is wrong? 6. If a student claims that cheating is acceptable in his/her culture, is he/she exempt from punishment for cheating? 7. Can a student be given credit for an answer that the professor deems to be wrong, just because the student feels it is right? 8. What if everyone decided to come to class late every day? 9. If tardiness becomes even more prevalent than it is today, can we just write whenever, man under the designation for class meeting time in the course-scheduling catalogue? 10. When professors come to class late, does that in any way encourage their students to do the same thing? Does that undermine the professors moral authority?
In closing, let me say that I hope you dont put yourself in the position of having to write a civility paper this semester. If you do, I would advise you to follow the first suggestion and interview a person who was alive during World War II. I dont mean to stereotype, but these people tend to be very helpful and patient.
Unfortunately, you may find the second suggestion to be less fruitful. University professors and administrators tend to be less patient and less accessible. After all, theyre usually busy constructing a Utopian society. They seldom have time to talk about civility.
Mike S. Adams (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate professor at UNC-Wilmington. While he was jogging in 1998 he was nearly killed by a 90-pound woman who ran a stop sign in her 6000-pound SUV. She was talking on her cell phone and appeared to be running late. Dr. Adams still has nightmares about that woman.
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It was incredibly rude for the student to have come in class, late or not.
Civility? F**k that!
Don't feel that way. The prof knows who is for real, and fellow students who care also know. The rest of them are background noise, something our modern society is cursed with. All the way from the radio from the nearby (or not so nearby) car at the stoplight to people talking to themselves at the supermarket, it is something we have to learn to ignore. Serious students recognize each other if they look for each other. Look around. You'll recognize each other.
I don't know... I think a blanket condemnation of the lack of civility and common courtesy is exactly what is needed. That is not to say there won't be exceptions, but you discuss contingencies for those with the professor beforehand. If you're a working mother (or single father), you let the professor know that there may be times when emergencies arise with your children and you just can't make it, or may be late. You then try to establish a method of contacting the professor before class when and if those situations arise. During class, you set your phone on vibrate or mute so the ring doesn't disturb others, and do not take the call in class. If you see it is your child, you raise your hand, explain the situation to the professor, and ask for permission to leave the room to take the call.
Those situations are not the norm, however. All too often it's the unimportant call which interrupts the class. I happen to be an instructor who works for a company which markets wireless phone service. We are quite serious about cell phone etiquette. Phones are allowed in my classes, as they are part of the business, but they are on mute, and calls are taken in the hall. If a call is answered in the room, or more than a certain percentage of the class is missed due to phone conversations, being late, etc., the student is not passed and is required to take the course again, at full tuition. Since that comes out of the manager's budget, those phone habits are broken rather quickly. Now if we could just reach the rest of the world... :-)
I don't have any sympathy for your parking issue, though. Yes, the people parking in the wrong spots are rude, but you have to factor that in to your drive time. It's perfectly acceptable to plan to have to walk from the "wrong" parking spots, only to find that you get the "correct" spot and arrive a few minutes early. It isn't acceptable to not plan for that possibility and therefore be a few minutes late. If it's a 30 minute commute and you leave home 31 minutes before you need to be there, you're the responsible party. But then, I'm kind of peevish about those sorts of things. :-)
The only problem I see with this approach is that is usually relies on shame to produce the intended result, and since nothing is morally "wrong" any more, shame is nowhere to be found. Perhaps it can be brought back with civility?
Carry on, Professor, and more power to you!
I like this teacher :)
Your response would be valid, if not for two things: my school schedules all the classes I need in the middle of the day. I have to leave work to go, and then come back and work. I then make the time up in the evenings. The extra ten minutes doesn't seem like much on one end, but when it's 9 pm and I have an essay to write for the next day, I want to get home.
I have literally spent thirty minutes circling the parking lot looking for a space because there is literally nowhere to park. It's a very small school, the commuter lot holds maybe 300 cars. And when commuters are not allowed to park anywhere except the commuter lot, that's frustrating... my problem is that I always leave work ten minutes before I really think I have to, because I don't like being late. But I spend twice that trying to park. They sell us parking tags at $30 a year, the least they could do is make sure we can park!
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