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These lecturers can’t get no respect

By Derek Baker, October 2 2014 —

Now that September has come to an end, classes are in full swing.

We’re now in the regular rhythm of lectures, a sequence of cramming students into the theatre, feverishly taking notes and filing everyone back out. Theoretically, even if a large lecture isn’t enjoyable, it should  at least be an easy way to have large amounts of information communicated to you.

Or maybe not.

There is a blatant disregard for common courtesy in lectures. Students’ lack of etiquette isn’t out of spite, but we’re surrounded by hundreds of people who are trying to focus. We could all stand to be a little bit more polite.

To start off, getting into a lecture theatre is a process in itself. The finishing class collides with the next, leaving everyone smushed together and squeezing through the doorway.

This could all be solved if everyone just waited an extra minute to let the previous class leave the theatre. Think of it like entering an elevator — you let people out and then you go in. It’s not like there’s any space in the theatre at that moment anyways. Calm down. Class hasn’t even started.

Now that you’re finally in the theatre, you walk down the stairs and try to find the least creaky seat in the lecture hall. You see an empty seat in the middle and step towards it mission-impossible style, avoiding backpacks and
half-finished pumpkin spice lattés. No one makes eye contact with you, even though you see each other three times a week.

Class starts and you’re resigned to sitting there for the next 50 minutes. The professor gives his or her lecture when someone raises their hand for a question. Over the sound of the person eating breakfast behind you, tapping pens and whispered gossip, you listen to their question and think, “yeah, that’s a good question.”

Then another hand is raised. And another. Soon it’s been 10 minutes and the professor is still on the second slide.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question, but there are stupid times to ask a question. Being the ninth person in a row to ask a question in lecture is one of these times. The professor needs to get through the material.

If everyone in class has a personal conversation with the professor, you’ll end up going through the last couple slides in a frenzied pace as you grasp your pen in a death grip.

Consider whether your question is really just a statement. If the question can be answered by the assigned reading or in the first two paragraphs of a Wikipedia page, don’t ask it. Most questions are best asked at the end of class or during a professor’s office hours anyway.

It’s approaching the 50th minute and you start getting ready for the 10 minute sprint to your next class. Around you, people begin packing up their bags. The professor vainly tries to keep going through his or her presentation, as class hasn’t actually ended yet.

The lecture finishes a couple minutes early because the professor finally gave up trying to talk over the sound of backpacks being aggressively zipped up. Though you tried to sit near the end of a row, you’re stuck in the middle and surrounded by people taking their time packing up. You shouldn’t feel like you’re being pressured to pack up quickly, but if you don’t need to be anywhere, let the people who need to leave through.

With the rapid pace of university, it’s easy to become self-absorbed. But in class we’re surrounded by countless people who are as busy as we are. Some common courtesy would make all of our lives easier.

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