a blatant disrespect for the time of students
(This is a rant, YMMV.)
There's an ongoing narrative that goes a little something like this:
As a student, if you're burnt out, that's a result of poor planning and lifestyle on your part. You should have planned well the classes you took this semester, and you should have good time management skills so as to balance your school work and your life.
This is the common narrative thrown in the face of countless burnt out, tired students when they begin to complain that “college is too difficult” or “the professors are too demanding”. And while there are those lazy students who simply join in the choir hoping for some easy passes, a majority of these students actually experience overload in their course requirements. Overload that is justified by the ongoing narrative of “students should take responsibility for their workload”. I say, yes indeed, students should take responsibility for their workload. But at what point are students even made aware of their workload? When does a student get to know how much time is required weekly for a specific class? Is this information provided before the sign up period for classes? During the sign up period? Or, as is the case most often, only when the classes begin?
Unfortunately, there is no time metric for classes, or at least not one that's standard across most universities. There exist systems within specific universities that attempt to measure the weight of a class, but they're often unspecific or just plain wrong. Take my university for example. Each class is given a number of “units”. These “units” range from 1 up to 4, and every student must take a minimum number of “units” per semester. The thing is, “units” are inconsistent. There are physical fitness classes that, while being an essential part of the curriculum and are not optional, are given a 1 “unit” score, and aren't even counted towards the total number of units. Meanwhile, there are classes that essentially are two-in-one, theory and practice, lecture and laboratory work classes, that are only given a measly 3 “units”, despite functionally being two different classes. No functional standard exists.
There is an even worse problem perpetuated by the ongoing narrative. The narrative puts all the responsibility on the student, and none on the professors who preside over and teach the classes. Professors are absolved of any responsibility to respect the time of students. They're under no obligation to provide a reasonable amount of time per day or week to spend on their classes. Professors aren't made to make their lectures concise or accessible, instead they are allowed to pad their lecture out with as much fluff and noise as possible. Did you think to ask a professor for their syllabus before signing up to the class? Good luck getting a response, much less a response with any respect. This lack of responsibility makes the job of the student much less about actually learning, and more on navigating and slogging through hours and hours of coursework that the student didn't even know they were signing up for. While time management skills and good planning can help, especially if you ask previous students of class you plan to take, only so much of that can help in the face of professors who blatantly take up more and more time for no real good reason.
(Oh, and I don't even want to hear the classic excuse of “but professors have it hard too!” I don't give a shit about your shitty situation if you insist on passing on your shitty luck to us students in the form of shitty time wasting work.)
Given all of this, what is there to be done? The system certainly won't change, but student behaviors can, and there are a few strategies to be able to cope with professors wasting time. I've listed a few suggestions below, but use these wisely. I ain't about to be blamed if you start harassing the person who grades you.
- When given a task, don't be afraid to ask the professor “how much time should we spend on this?”. You can make the question more specific, by asking how much time per day or per week, or how much time the professor thinks we should take to finish. If they give a non answer, ask for a suggestion. Press this matter as far as you can reasonably get it.
- Ask around for higher level students or alumni that have taken the same class under the same professor. Ask them about their experience, and how much time the class ended up eating from their weeks and days.
- Abuse attendance checking and absence rules. As soon as a class takes your attendance, that's your signal to be able to leave when you feel you're not getting anything more out of being physically there. If a class is online, you don't necessarily have to be paying attention, or even be attending. If accosted by the professor, simply state that you have other matters that need taking care of, or respectfully state that you are needed elsewhere unexpectedly. You don't have to give a reason if you don't want to, unless there's some weird rule that allows professors to be particularly personally invasive.
- Work in parallel with your professor. Instead of complaining about them and asking them to change, team up with your fellow classmates and collect resources that are more time efficient, but cover the same material. Don't be afraid to push the boundaries of collaboration. As long as you know what constitutes plagiarism, cheating, or whatever bullshit offense the university has, you can work with your classmates at a level just below that, and offer a parallel, more time efficient way to learn the same material.
In the end, while the system is broken and professors are still going to be mostly shit at doing the teaching part of their jobs, there are ways to counteract their bullshit.
I hope my rant and suggestions help you. If you have any comments about this article, thoughts to share with me, or violent reactions for me to ignore if you're a professor, just reach out to me on Fedi.