My junior year I took a class called Business Law with Professor Ed Westbrook. This class is notorious for being one of the most difficult business classes, with one of the greatest, yet toughest, professors.
His expectations were simple. Come prepared to class, and no cell phones. If you showed up unprepared, you would lose participation for the day, and he would not call on you for the rest of the semester – severely affecting your overall grade.
Every student had one grace day. You could approach him at the beginning of the class period and inform them that you were “unprepared” for the day, no reason necessary, and he would not call on you that day. Secondly, if he caught you on your phone in class, you were asked to leave – additionally losing participation for the day.
Of the more than 40 syllabi I’ve read in my three and a half years at Vanguard, every single one has mentioned some version of the “no cell phones” speech. Additionally, every excellent professor expects their students to be prepared to learn in their class.
So why was this the most feared business class?
At any other university, this would be expected. After all, higher education should maintain higher standards.
These basic expectations may be echoed by the majority of Vanguard’s faculty, yet many of them lack the follow-through of these statements.
The disappointing truth is that the average Vanguard student is frightened by faculty who simply ask for attention and preparation.
For a university that strives to “cultivate academic excellence,” its classrooms are filled with students content with apathetic effort and no repercussions for it.
In a surprising number of classes, students are playing games, texting their friends, and scrolling Facebook all while the professor is lecturing. Even the best students, are guilty of class distraction, but the greater issue is the lack of consequence for insufficient effort and attention.
And it’s not just cell phones; student apathy spreads to all areas of academics.
Students are asked to give formal presentations, and unless rarely instructed, no one dresses professionally. As a person who feels it is respectful to dress business professional regardless of the requirement, I feel out of place next to a student in sweatpants.
A student who submits an essay filled with grammatical errors can receive the same score as a student who toiled for hours.
When a professor assigns a time-consuming activity with a weighty grade, the general student response is negative.
When something takes more than a day to complete, chaos ensues. In the distance, you can hear the echo of Hydro Flasks crashing to the ground, students frantically mobile-ordering their lattes and bracing for “all-nighters.”
When assigned a large project in a major-specific, upper-division class, the response should be looking forward to the practical learning experience rather than trying to find the loophole, the bare minimum, and questioning the intentions of the professor.
This should not be the norm.
This does not prepare us for what comes after graduation.
This does not cultivate academic excellence.
Asking for an extension, making up excuses, skipping meetings, and sitting on your phones wouldn’t be acceptable in the workplace.
While students are responsible for their own work ethic, the leniency of Vanguard’s professors contributes to the disappointing performance and makes one question a connection.
A professor having actual consequences for not following simple instructions should not be feared by the general student body.
If every professor followed through on their expectations, and had legitimate repercussions, this would hold Vanguard students to the higher standard that the university promotes.
Stricter policy enforcement would challenge the unmotivated students and inspire the ambitious ones to reach their full capacity.
This issue is not necessarily Vanguard-specific. University students across the country are becoming lazier, and our school certainly isn’t known for being the most academic rigorous. Yet, why can’t we be?
Imagine a university that expected excellence out of its students, rather than the bare minimum. Imagine a university where students are presented with a challenge, and rise to the occasion.
Imagine a university that truly cultivates academic excellence.
Let’s be that university.