Her name began with an A. (I would love to offer the full first name and I so rarely blog about students because I don't think it's ethical, but this was a public enough event and, in fact, she's not one of my students at all.) She was in the back of the room of the New Student Orientation at the program called "Academic Transitions," where a whole roomful of students role-play a hypothetical situation where a student is overwhelmed with school, issues and life and they have to offer advice. Each group brainstorms ideas and a representative offers up the top three choices, including one that is meant to be "unique." This if the fifth of five of these sessions being held this summer and I attend as a representative faculty member who then offers advice as well. I have been doing this for a few summers now and generally enjoy it; I also know that the fifth is usually (a) the biggest and (b) the hardest. Students who wait until the end often self-select this session for a reason. Of note, it's also hot outside today.
Of the many groups, A went first. In order, her advice to the student who was just a little overstressed was that she needed to:
- Get laid.
- Find a student who had taken the class before and pay them to write the paper.
- If that doesn't work, hire someone to kill the professor.
I should say that nearly every other time that I have done this kind of thing, the kids have been great and play along really well. And, in (some) fairness, I should say that this time A was one of three representatives this time that suggested offing the prof. (At least they didn't suggest sleeping with us, which we've heard a few times.) I also don't take this particular bit of "naughty posturing" as a comment on students as a whole who, as a group, I am not cynical enough yet to believe all think this way. In fact, to everyone's credit, all of these smarmy answers (including all of A's) were met with real unease by the rest of the group, not the laughter or cheers I'm sure they expected to elicit.
When it came time to give my spiel, however, I said to the entire group of around 150 students, "My first bit of advice is that A needs to not take any of my classes in the four years that she's here. Your orientation leader, who has taken three of my classes, can tell you that that kind of attitude isn't going to fly very far in my class. And, by the way, nice way to make an impression."