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Class Closed

Class Closed

We had an inquiry recently from a faculty member about closing the door to his or her (I don’t know from whom the inquiry came) lecture to prevent students from entering late. A TA would be posted outside to enforce, which gave me interesting ideas about joint appointments between research units and local bars.

I don’t mean to minimize the problem or excuse student discourtesy. Apparently this is a 150-plus person lecture, with a batch of students perennially arriving late and being resultantly disruptive. My staff concluded that the instructor did have the right to close class. But we also concluded with hopes that this would not be necessary: that students could be asked if there were systematic reasons for tardiness that might be addressed, that a front section of seats could be reserved for well-intentioned latecomers to minimize disruption. I hope that improvements can occur without draconian enforcements.

The whole issue brought to mind an experience from my own college days, when doors had just been invented. I had a really tough history class where lectures were the core experience, with fact-crammed blackboards framing richly descriptive presentations that were in turn the basis for examinations. Doors were shut promptly, with latecomers not permitted. I don’t recall bouncers being needed — this is one scary prof — but I may misremember. I was late once, joining a small group craning at the door to pick up what we could and then rushing in after class to copy the board.

But I later retaliated. In the same class we had an essay assignment with the stipulation 10 pages, no more, no less. Of course, the prof still being scary, I was appropriately intimidated. But my essay was recalcitrantly 11 pages, and it was good. So I put in two page 6’s, assuming that if I was caught I could claim apologetic unawareness of the mistake and have a final shot at revision. In fact I not only got an A but a comment about its being very succinct. Justice served. It was my second proudest moment during my college years.

I later got to know the prof a bit in graduate school and beyond, and of course he wasn’t nearly as fearsome as I had undergraduately imagined.