Commentary: Five ways for professors to be respectful in the fall

Jacob Parker

In the weeks leading up to graduation, I’ve done a lot of reflecting about my time here on the Hill. College is a time where you meet people and form relationships that last a lifetime, but perhaps the people that shape our future most are our professors.

With our grades and futures in the palms of their hands, they run classrooms similar to the way judges do their courtrooms—largely unrestricted and unchecked.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have plenty of teachers who are understanding, supportive and filled with the desire to share knowledge. Professors McCaffrey, Harkins, Reed and Crawford, to name a select few, have helped me along my way and provided an amount of support I could’ve never begun to give thanks for.

But I’ve also had, as many others on campus, my fair share of horror stories. While not naming anyone specific, here’s a suggestion of a simple “student syllabus” for professors to follow in the future. 


1. Tell us what ya want—what ya really, really want.

When your students start asking questions, it’s not acceptable to cup your hands over your ears and refuse to respond. It’s childlike and embarrassing. Responses to student questions must be coherent, and without frustration. We’re just trying to learn, pass and get by, man. We don’t have time for a circus act. 


2. Trade in your high horse for a cute pony.

Of course you’re intelligent. We have respect for the amount of knowledge you hold over your subject. But taking pride in your work and research is a totally different thing than lording your accomplishments over students and making them feel inept. 


3. Your voice is not that of a siren.

I’ve never met a student who enjoyed a pure lecture class where the teacher did nothing but drone on and on. While some people may not prefer to join in, having discussions with your classroom (and not just posing and answering your own questions) is really the only way we’re ever going to pay attention. 


4. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Yes, most of us are young 20-somethings and, to some of you, a bitter reminder of the long-gone youthful years. We’re a generation like never before and binge watching (or drinking) will be our favorite pastimes, just like your baseball and cracker jacks. However, putting a student down because of their sexual orientation, outfit, gender, life choice, religion, etc. doesn’t make you a witty professor. It makes you mean. 


5. Even God isn’t this strict about showing up.

Attendance policies, especially those allowing three or less absences per semester, are laughable. People have lives other than university responsibilities. We’re adults dealing with illnesses, multiple jobs, deaths, finding our way, growing up and living on our own. More often than not, these things collide with the rigid structures of time classes are set. There is no feasible reason that, if all assignments are completed on time and receive above average grades, a student should fail any class because of their attendance grade. 

Comprehension doesn’t come strictly from attending class. This idea is antiquated, like much of the set-up of the modern university system.