Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Student Over-Activities

A break in the Barcelona postings to growl a bit.

Students here at the Abbey are pretty much burning the candle at both ends.  Most do a lot of traveling on the weekend, either school trips (such as the one I went with to Barcelona) or independently (often with other students).  To be honest, they tend to be either far more adventurous than I, or on a different budget, or choosing to spend their budget differently, because while I may go spend a day in York (and a lovely day at that) or a weekend reading at the Library, they go off to Prague or Amsterdam or Berlin or you get the idea.

It totally makes sense that they pay a lot of attention to traveling.

Then there are classes, and frankly, as an instructor, I tend to think students should pay good attention to classes, do good work for them, and study hard.

And then there are "student activities" arranged by the student life folks.  They've split the students here into "houses" (think Hogwarts) and do house competitions and such.  There are sports competitions, and singing competitions (karaoke), and baking competitions.  Students can also earn points for going to various activities (including some academic talks), and can lose points for not filling out forms or whatever in a timely manner (we all have to fill out a travel form to say where we're going each weekend, and whether we need meals at the Abbey).

On Halloween, the night before the before the big common course (6 credit course that every student here takes) exam, the student life folks held a Rocky Horror movie night, and showed the movie starting at 11 or something.

I've chatted with some other faculty, and there's a general, though not overwhelming sense, that the student life folks should be a bit more aware of academic stuffs.

Today, I brought it up at a meeting, and suggested that the student life folks might schedule ahead and let all the faculty know when big things will be, so that we can schedule exams accordingly (because we have to turn our schedules in months in advance of the semester) or should look at the schedules faculty have put up (public info) and schedule their activities so they don't pull students away from exam prep, papers, and so forth.

From the student life director's reaction, you would have thought I'd suggested beating up students on the back porch or something.

No, they said, they already tell students that they have to work on time management, so it's just students needing to work on time management.

And, Halloween is a "high risk" time, so the student life folks have to schedule something then.

You see the contradiction?  Students have to learn time management, but not managing their risky behavior (I'm guessing this is about alcohol consumption, which they do a lot of here anyway, it being legal at 18 and all).

Then they made the excuse that they already don't schedule things before the big common course exams, except they had to this one time.  Then they went on about how they have to get everything done in three or four days a week, so they really need to pack things in.

I do recognize that clubs and other students activities are massively important in student development.  Really, I do.  I saw it in my own college experience.  But I also still think that students go to college for the classes, for the education, for the degree, and not for most activities or clubs.  So giving students an easier time prioritizing classes seems like a reasonable idea, especially here where they're already spending so much time traveling, planning travels, and so on.

In two years, no one will care whether their house won the competition.  But they may care if they sank their GPA and can't get into grad school or whatever.  Or not.  (I don't think GPAs are a huge deal once one's gotten out and gotten a first position or grad program.)

I don't think they actually need to "pack things in" because I think most students would be fine with a few more days without scheduled activities.  Heck, they might even do a better job on their papers and exams.

Someone told me other colleges now put their students in "houses" (that aren't residence-based).  Is that really a thing?  Do students really need their hands held to that point in college?  Or is that sort of an attempt to appeal to the Hogwarts loving crowd?


  1. Anonymous5:47 AM

    Wait -- you bring student activities staff with you when you run overseas programs? For crying out loud, when will these kids grow up!

  2. I'm a guest at the Abbey; the school that runs the program has student activities staff folks.

  3. Unfortunately there is a feeling among some students (and alumni) that their most important learning experiences occurred outside of the classroom through leadership /student organization /athletic /community /fill-it-in experiences. I suspect that at least for those in the STEM fields they wouldn't say that if they tried to make a living in those fields without having gone to class.

    1. It's not an easy thing, though. I think a lot of learning goes on in classes of all sorts. And learning goes on outside of classes, too. It's about balancing.

      I don't think most people paying for college would be willing to fork over the money or take out loans without the goal of a college degree at the end.

  4. Anonymous2:30 AM

    There is not "just a feeling" that important leaning experiences occur outside of the classroom, there is a great body of empirical research to demonstrate that as fact. That does not, however, dispute the point in this piece that better coordination of classroom and out-of-classroom activities would be appropriate and ideal. The student life folk at Bardiac's college can and should do better. Their response was lazy.

    1. Anonymous (2:30), Absolutely. There's TONS of learning that happens outside of classes and coursework. And it's really important. It's about balance, and here, it feels off.

  5. Anonymous4:45 AM

    Not disregarding your point about scheduling- but 16 years after leaving college, I regret not being more involved in activities and a bit more sociable & adventurous at the time. I took the classes seriously & studied and ended up with 1st class honours. I wouldn't have gone to the 11pm movie. I was the "responsible" one my friends parents liked. I'm still responsible now and middle-aged to boot and a bit sad I don't have the fun memories my (less responsible) friend has.

    1. Anonymous (4:45), You're right that a lot of activities are really important, especially those that help people make friends and have good relationships and memories. Students here are doing those through travel, though, and so I think the student activities folks should be a bit more careful in their scheduling.