“You complain a lot”, Naya, my roommate, said to me recently. “Apparently, that’s the only way to get things done around here”, I replied. I’d noticed that our heater needed to be fixed, and had tracked down the maintenance staff to assist me with the necessary repairs. As an Emergency Room volunteer, I’ve observed that patients who speak up and enunciate their problems spend less time waiting for the doctor. The difference between mediocrity and excellence lies in the ability to take action on issues at hand. This concept can also be observed in a classroom.
A few weeks ago, my professor attempted to change the class schedule from meeting twice a week for 90 minutes to once a week for 3 hours. This new schedule was to occupy our free hour period. I objected for many reasons, but mainly because I felt it was an unnecessary inconvenience. This time conflict also affected some other students, so we voiced our opinions. The class now meets twice a week for 90 minutes, as per the initial schedule. That was the first time in long time that my opinion counted. After that situation had been resolved, I began to ponder on where power lies in the classroom. One might quickly jump to the conclusion that the instructor holds the power. This is true to a large extent; professors have authority with respect to tutelage and grading of the class. However, students have a great amount of power in and out of the classroom, but only a few recognize this.
For instance, in my sophomore year I discovered that international students in my department were foregoing internship opportunities. In order to partake in an internship opportunity and earn money, an international student has to file for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). In order to file for CPT, the student must prove that the internship is directly related to his/her major, and to a class that he/she is currently enrolled in. Most internships occur during the summer when there is no scholarship or financial aid available. Students ended up paying $5,000 out-of-pocket to enroll in a 4-credit class in order to get CPT approval. Students who could not afford to pay that amount of money had to forego their internships. My classmates and I petitioned for a 1-credit internship class to reduce the financial burden of enrolling in CPT. It’s been a long journey, but this course will be available in Spring 2017. This story is a testament to the fact that students can indeed influence change.
Another simple way that students give up their power in the classroom is by portraying a lack of accountability. By skipping class, showing up late, or focusing on gadgets during a lecture, you are wasting your money, time and inadvertently, your power.
Being the nerd that I am, I calculated the amount of money that goes to waste when a student skips class. For a full time undergraduate student enrolled in 12-17 credits, tuition costs $16,150 per semester. Let’s assume a student, Peter, is enrolled in 4 courses totalling 15 credits. By missing 3 classes of a 3 credit course, Peter has lost $810. To put this in relatable terms, he’s wasted money that could buy either an iPhone 6 Plus, or 5 Jordan sneakers, or Halal food for 150 days.
What’s my point? Be proactive. We often give up our power by remaining silent and feigning apathy on critical issues. I dare you to speak up, voice your concerns, pursue your education with passion, and take action on any injustice you observe. If you need support, contact your campus Student Government Association, the Community Service Center or your campus dean.