Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Op-Ed: Yo Teach, You're Not Paid to Ditch Class


illustration by Jeremy Schlangen

By Brendon Hancock
, outside contributor

This is a shorter version of a piece that appeared on the Eugene Lang College livejournal.com community, on November 21.

Nearing the end of this semester, I find myself reminiscing about my Lang education. Overall, I feel content, even thrilled that I have been able to customize a course of study that best fits my personality and my interests. At Lang, I have some amazing mentors and teachers who have educated me in my field, as well as bestowed upon me new introspections and outlooks on life.

Yet, I also find myself frustrated to no end by a problem that has pervaded for the entirety of my education at Lang, infuriating me more this semester than in semesters past: my professors are truant and tardy.

This semester, I have a teacher (who shall remain nameless) who shows up late to class every day, if at all. Now, most students might take this as a godsend, a day of class missed and an unexpected break. But this supposed break makes me upset, even angry.

By my calculation, this teacher has missed 435 minutes of class. I am infuriated more than my fellow classmates, in part because I have had more than one unpunctual professor. In fact, I have kept meticulous track of professorial absences and truancies in my three years at Lang. In 5 semesters, I have had a total of 27 classes missed through a professor's failure to attend. Perhaps most infuriating is that all but one of these truant professors is still employed by this university.

Every single semester, I inform the proper authorities of the university, including the dean, the chairs of the faculty departments and academic advisors. My efforts have not resulted in any teacher attending classes more regularly and none of my complaints seem to have made the university any more aware of this chronic problem of professorial truancy.

This semester, I know I am not the only student complaining. I received emails from my classmates who were attempting to write letters to Lang Dean Jonathan Veitch. My classmates have complained even higher up the chain than I care to go, and yet not a thing has changed. Even after my complaints, my teacher walked in 30 minutes late to class, and it has made me understand why Lang is rated number #2 on Princeton Review's list of "Long Lines and Red Tape." It's because student problems aren't addressed, they are ignored. In contrast to this teacher being replaced, or given an ultimatum to come on time, she will likely just be "let go" when the semester ends. In the meantime she will show up late or fail to show up at all for the rest of the semester, continuing to waste my money and time.

In my first semester at Lang, an amazing Poetry professor explained the financial breakdown of our educational costs. He showed us how much our education was costing us in terms of cents per minute. It was staggering to find out just how much money my education cost. I was paying more than a dollar a minute to be in class. Since that early lesson of economics, I have attempted to capitalize on the overwhelming price of this private education, recognizing that if I wasn't learning, I was wasting thousands of dollars.

A grand total of 27 classes in three years, 2700 minutes x $1.11= $2997. My total tuition so far has been $65,760, and $2997 is 4.5% of that. Absenteeism on the part of New School professors so far has wasted at least 4.5% of my education. Each of the teachers I mentioned would have failed the classes by the students attendance standards--although, those never seem to be enforced either.

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