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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media


As a first time teacher’s assistant for an undergraduate level class, I didn’t know what to expect as I walked into the classroom for the first time.  I have to admit, I was excited at the prospect of making some type of difference in the minds of young students who were setting out to accomplish something.  I was not so naive as to think that I may get to run a class, but I absolutely expected to be answering questions on the material, holding study sessions, being faced with an onslaught of e-mails asking me when things were due, clarification on paper guidelines and how to properly write, or some other type of thing that would be indicative of caring students and an engaging professor.  What I instead found was a disgusting display of indifference from both sides of the professor’s desk.

I felt like I was working at a community college.  Nobody, save for a few (and I mean I could literally count them on two hands), cared about anything going on in that classroom including the professor.  As the semester progressed, the shock and awe that I was experiencing got worse.  I had given the students my email address so that they could get a hold of me whenever they needed to.  I received five e-mails over the course of the entire semester and three of them were from the same student.  Ok I thought, maybe they’re just a smart bunch of people who are on top of the game.  Wrong.

As time wore on I realized that I wasn’t dealing with eager students, but lost pedestrians who seemed to have wandered into a classroom for shelter.  As I walked up and down the rows, I watched as people texted, updated their Facebook status, chatted loudly, and even switched seats back and forth (sometimes several rows apart) to sit with their friends.  The very first day, a student sat in the front row and fell asleep not ten feet from the professor.  The circus didn’t stop there.  As I handed out each of the tests through the semester (all take home tests), I fielded some of the most ridiculous questions I have ever heard:

“I’m going on vacation, can I hand this in next week?”.

“Do I really have to bubble in my name or can I just write it?”

“I lost my scantron, can I just put it on notebook paper?”

I even had students asking me for the answers.  What could I do?  I was totally powerless.  The teaching staff has the prerogative to answer these questions, not me.  Which brings me to the worst part of all of this:  The dereliction of duty by the professor.

These students may not have gotten away with such lackluster effort had the professor cared about his work.  He asserted no authority over the class, allowed assignments and tests to be handed in over a week late with no penalty, graded on a curve that I couldn’t even fathom (apparently 12 questions correct out of 20 is a B-), and seemed to have all but given up on his job.  Students would show up for class, sign off on attendance, and then leave right in front of me.  The sad part is, these same students who never sat through a class still managed to get A’s on the tests.  Clearly, nobody was being challenged.

I understand that this is an undergraduate class and that most of these students were fulfilling an elective requirement, and that amongst freshman, the urge to drink yourself stupid outweighs the urge to study.  But when I was an undergraduate, I never wanted to miss something important in class that might be on the test (which was NEVER a take home), was terrified of possibly missing an assignment because there was no such thing as handing it in late for full credit, and actually got nervous at the prospect of having too many absences.

The point is that at least in this class, any type of discipline or consequence was absent, along with a third of the student roster on any given day.  Students made the rules, not the professor.  I understand fully that my experience may be a statistical outlier, but if this is typical of the day-to-day operations across campus, I am appalled at the generation of “scholars” that UMB is turning out.  We all know the stigma that our school has amongst a city full of Ivy league and other top notch universities.  If both teacher and student don’t change their attitudes, that stigma will never go away and our futures will suffer for it.