Syllabus week: A waste of time

Claire Fisher

Loading up on syllabi, feeling out which classes are going to give you trouble and having to get out of bed for the first time in weeks, the first week of the semester can seem a bit overwhelming. I often find, however, that I am sent home early from classes without new information. This first week of school can be a waste of time and money.

The biggest resource wasted during the first week of class is time. After forging my way through the snow and wind and waiting 30 minutes for a bus in the cold, I arrive at class to have my professor cover the syllabus and send me back out into the tundra. I made the effort to come to class and paid hard-earned money to attend it, I should leave that class with more than just the syllabus in my hand. Professors and students need to find a way to make the first week of classes more productive.

While I concede that as a sometimes lazy, free-time-loving college student I don’t entirely mind that we spend the first week of the semester reading the syllabus, learning how many kids our professor has, how they prefer we ask to go to the bathroom and exactly how much they hate when a cell phone goes off during class. This means no homework, no stress and more time I can spend with friends; it’s wonderful. There is nothing I enjoy more than a week at school with little to no responsibilities.

On the other hand, the part of me that pays bills and wants to learn information so that I can become a successful professional is frustrated by the fact that I’ve wasted a week’s worth of tuition and time on get-to-know-you games and going over the grading scale again.

A first day of class spent well means going over what the class is about and what will be expected of me as a student throughout the semester. I don’t mind skimming through the syllabus and touching on the policies and projects that are unique to the class, but reading word for word through the academic honesty policy for the eighth time isn’t necessary. Not only do I cover these basic policies in every single one of my classes, but they are also something I could have easily read at home.

In addition to covering the basic policies, I think the first day should be spent discussing and going over the subject we’ll be studying in class. Professors should cover some background information on the subject and how it’s used in the world and start teaching me about it. I realize that not everyone will have textbooks by the first week of class, so this is an opportunity to talk about the subject in general: what it is, what it’s used for in the real world and what I can expect to take away from this class.

The first week is a time to readjust to life at school and to get to know your classmates and professors, but it is also a week to start our classes. Let’s actually start them.