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    are graduate students just a bunch of whiners?

    By adrienne
    Mar 17, '05 2:22 PM EST

    As you have probably gathered if you have been following my semester, we have been struggling with the issue of teacher attendance a bit. After we approached our critic about this, it really turned out to be just a case of miscommunication rather than a lack of interest on his part. Things have been going much better in the studio and i think everyone is much happier.

    What has gotten me thinking was a situation that occured the week before spring break. The morning of our midreview we had our material effects class at 9. This, of course, meant that not very many people showed up for class. There were four of us there (luckily I woke up late, but decided to make a run for it anyway) out of about 12. Naturally our professor was very upset. Although she teaches a studio that also had a midreview that day, she felt that it was irresponsible and disrespectful for people to miss class - especially given the fact that so many people have been complaining about teacher attendance throughout the school.

    I wonder, are we just hypocrites or whiners, demanding too much from our teachers who also have busy schedules and various demands? Or are we justified because we are paying for the service of education? I think we pay something like $200/hour for classes, so no one takes skipping a class lightly by any means, but should we be expected to be more professional in our education?

    I am personally really divided on this issue. In some ways i feel badly about making demands for a professor's time, but in other ways i feel like an angry customer when they don't fulfill certain expectations, especially when i think the quality of what's being taught is so good.

    I don't know that there is any resolution to this. Maybe both teachers and students just need to be more understanding of the crazy schedules that we are all operating on.


    • Bill-nyc

      I can only offer my perspective, once I entered my program I decided to "forget" the money I was burning up per semseter (let alone per hour)! Rather than approach my educational experience as a consumer/customer with all the baggage that implies, I'm just simply tryng to get the most out of the academic experience.

      I would say yes, we do need to be "professional" and establish relationships with our professors (and fellow students) that are based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. (We learn from the professors, but professors also get alot by being exposed to students as well, they get to test ideas and see different perspectives, talents and techniques. Er, except for maybe in material effects class. If it's anything like our Structures class it's basically a brain dump of information isn't it...)

      But I do not feel bad when I need to skip a Structures or History class due to exhaustion, you have to give yourself a little wiggle room every now and then.

      Mar 17, 05 6:48 pm

      I've been on both the teacher and student side of this. As the teacher I've been somewhat understanding of the reasons large numbers of students are missing on studio crit days. However, something I'm much less tolerant of is that these same missing students will often show up (or email or call) within the next day or week wanting me to spend a lot of time with them individually helping them to catch up. This is disrespectful. I'm not sure what's going on with your particular instructors as you are alluding to schedule difficulties on their part. But personally I show up for my scheduled classes and office hours, and expect that if the students want to learn the material and pass the class (or do better than just pass) that they'll either find a way to attend or find a way to catch up that doesn't require me to teach the class multiple times to individual students over the course of the next few days.

      There's also the issue of departmental/university rules about attendance and scheduling. It is often out of the control of the individual instructor as to whether he/she can re-schedule the class to work around a deadline in another course. I've also taught in programs that require a downgrade of 1 letter grade for every two absences, with no exceptions except for written medical excuses. In this case I warned the students strongly about missing class and most of them came - in a disheveled and sleepy state naturally - but they behaved as if I was the bad guy when I was only trying to save their GPAs.

      As a student I skipped my share of classes. I somewhat regret this now, as often the information I wish I remembered (or learned in the first place) was from those support courses that got pushed aside during the studio crunches. Especially when I was in the midst of taking the registration exams I found myself thinking that I would have been better off going to structures and daylighting and plumbing lectures than staying up all night cutting basswood.

      Mar 18, 05 2:14 pm
      Ms Beary

      Good point Aluminate.

      How's this for irresponsibility? Fiction doesn't even get this good....
      We had a professor move in the middle of the semester (mid or early october?) and she never bothered to tell her class, us! She was one of those "i'm really important and smart and don't you forget it" types of course. We kept meeting and having class by ourselves, it was about 12 grad students and 3 undergrads (I was an undergrad). One of the grad students took over the class. The class was called "five great buildings" or something like that and was experimental. It was her only class.

      After several weeks of not seeing her, we heard thru rumors that she had moved to Atlanta suddenly. The next day the dean came to our class and said that the teacher had left and we didn't have to have class anymore.

      The craziest thing about it was that she handed out grades! I complained pretty fierce as I was one of two students who got a B and everyone else got A's. At least we got the credit.

      Moral of the story: Remember that you learn from your classmates more than from your professors. This is why you have the studio envirnonment.

      Mar 18, 05 8:10 pm

      Aluminate, yes, good points.

      Also as a teacher, I would add I think a teacher has less excuses to miss a class. It's our job. We're being paid to render a service. Like any job, yes we're human and can get sick, but other occupations shouldn't come before teaching responsabilities.

      Regrettably, the school I work for in south america takes this way too seriously [they behave like evil businessmen], and only pay for the classes you teach. So if I get sick, and have to miss a class, I miss those hours too. This is not strictly enforced but somewhat enforced. And we get paid miserably, even considering lower cost of life.

      Strawbeary: that is outrageous! Several weeks! Did you by any chance go to UVA? I had a teacher at Georgia Tech that was coming from UVA and she sounds similar. Not that she missed classes, she was just sort of one of those "i'm really important" types also.

      Mar 18, 05 11:01 pm

      we had a prof. for studio last quarter that went to singapore (for what i have no idea) for the last 4 weeks out of the 10 week quarter and came back 2 days before final reviews. not cute. he replaced himself with his business partner which was "responsible" but pretty random. the guy wasn't SO bad, but he wasn't what we thought the initial prof was. i think pretty much everyone chalked that quarter up as a waste of time.

      Mar 21, 05 12:53 pm

      I know this is many years late, but I am wondering if this teacher missing class thing happens often at Penn. I am considering going there but have already have problems with relatively rude/inattentive open house, teachers that won't answer e-mails, etc. and it doesn't bode well. Is it like this everywhere or only at larger places like Penn, UVA, etc.

      Apr 19, 09 5:11 pm

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