Every class has that infuriating guy (or girl) whose class participation seems limited to aggravating everyone within a 20-desk radius. You know that guy who comes in with a steaming Panda Express bowl, oblivious to its pervasive smell? Or the one who boasts about his impressive traveling history, mad computer programming skills and highly political internship? Yeah, that guy. If you haven’t learned the basics of classroom etiquette, then I recommend you do so quickly. You don’t want to be the scorned object that unites the rest of your classmates, do you?
My fellow academics I beg of you: Don’t bring hot food to class. Whatever you can safely transport in your backpack is the only food you’re allowed to munch on. What consumes so much of your time that you can only eat your Wendy’s combo meal in the middle of my seventy-five minute class? Even intensive therapy shouldn’t leave you with so little time. Save the meals, and their greasy fumes, for those several hour blocks between classes.
Speaking of stench, don’t attend class smelling of last night’s bong water and booze. Accidents happen, bongs spill and permanent markers are abused. Does all that excuse your slovenly appearance? Only sometimes. I’m not asking you to take a shower or put on closed-toe shoes – slather on some deodorant, change your underwear, chug a Naked Juice and rejoin the world of the living.
Lecture halls are the worst for violating classroom etiquette. Just because you’re late doesn’t mean you have to take the seat in the back directly next to me. I would much rather you climb across the rows and distract the class than have to deal with fifteen minutes of heavy breathing. And if you insist on sitting behind me, please don’t use the back of my chair as a footrest. Don’t kick my chair, don’t shake my chair and don’t transfer your nervous ticks to my chair. In fact, on the topic of seats, everyone should learn to fill the middle sections of lecture halls first. Seriously, everyone standup and move six seats to the right.
Those of you lucky enough to be in a discussion-oriented course realize how important a competent class is to a quality discussion. With respect to classroom etiquette, if you didn’t bother with the problem set or the reading, then don’t bother us with your insipid ideas. Ask questions if you really feel the need to share, but don’t try to contribute to the discussion. You will be called on your bullshit.
And speak quickly. Everyone wants airtime, so when you have a point to make, get to it. I don’t pay thousands of my parents’ dollars every quarter to sit and watch you boost your own ego. In fact, the only thing that grinds me more than longwinded, masturbatory speeches is the beginning phrase: “kind of going off that…” Are we in the third grade? Did we forget how to start a complete sentence? Take one extra second to formulate before you open your mouth and the class will silently thank you for it.
Only slightly less pathetic than sounding like an 8-year-old is watching a too-kind professor try to mold someone’s dense, off-topic response into one remotely relevant to the discussion. More importantly, please do not confuse class time with group therapy sessions. There will never be a situation in which it would be appropriate to loudly disclose the most intimate details of your coke habit. Not only is dysfunction unattractive, but typically irrelevant as well. So please, curb all further urges to share with the class anecdotes about your year studying abroad in Uganda or your internship with Lois Capps. Put all those stories in a cookie jar along with all those daddy issues – I want to hear equally of neither.
On a happier note, sharing the pains of blood pressure spikes with classmates often leads to ridiculously fun levels of contempt. Many of my own Facebook friendships could only have resulted from the withstanding bond hatred creates. If scorn doesn’t turn you on then my advice is to avoid the “that guy” role at all costs. For some of you, this may require several rolls of duct-tape.