Catch box syndrome

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Humor columnist Heath Yancey describes a phenomenon seen in large lecture classes.

Emma Klein | Cavalier Daily

Preparing to register for classes for the fall 2019 semester, I was again reminded of how large some of the classes at the University can be. Despite the best efforts of the University, there will always be large lecture classes with at least 100 students, if not more depending on the department. It’s a situation that college students across the U.S. deal with, and without a doubt some schools have even larger lectures than those at the University. Most students have been there — clickers bought, online homework finished, head TA prepped, other TAs hopefully, but likely not, prepped and everyone locked into a freezing lecture hall. Add in the professor occasionally interacting with the balcony, and there’s a situation most of us can relate to. 

In addition to these qualms, there are various issues related to the microphones that are integral to a lecture of that magnitude. There’s nothing quite like feedback during a 9 a.m., or even better when the batteries of a mic die, and someone has to be brave enough to start the process of flagging down the professor so they can fix the issue. Not to mention the infamous Catch Box designed to increase student participation. In theory, the idea sounds great — amplify the voices of those asking questions so they don’t have to worry as much about projection. In practice, the Catch Box just doesn’t work. The first time I saw it used, the professor had the TAs run it to students who wished to participate, which defeats the whole purpose. I guess if you aren’t going to use the lecture TAs for anything else, they might as well get a work out scaling the stairs of the lecture. I thought the Olympic torch passing of the mic was ridiculous, until I saw students attempt to “catch” said Catch Box. 

Let’s be honest, it is almost never the coordinated student calling for box to ask their burning question. When your professor decides to relive his high school football career to pelt the box to said student, even the foam covering isn’t helping anyone. Not to mention, this professor was obviously never the first string QB based on that aim. A hush falls over the hall every time the Catch Box flies through the air, and that is not a good thing. The box becomes a tractor for everyone in the room as they brace themselves for potential damage and to make sure it doesn’t hit them. It keeps you on your toes, I guess. 

The Catch Box has undoubtedly helped encourage students to ask questions and make professors more accessible during lecture, but it has also encouraged some students a little too much. In these lectures, there might be 300 students, but said professor still has X amount of office hours for everyone to swing by. This means that the a—kissing that would take place during office hours by some students has now been pushed to during lecture because there are people with actual questions at office hours. 

You can always tell honest questions based on how they’re worded. No one can ask a question with words that large without pre-writing it and rehearsing it in the mirror to pop off during the class. If you close your eyes while they’re talking, you can vividly picture them asking for a letter of recommendation in the future citing the moment when they asked this question. But to be fair, this issue does deal with one of the most devastating education gaps at the University.

The distance between how smart people think they are and how smart they actually are has been widening at a faster rate than ever on Grounds, but I digress. Some of us have to think through our questions to make sure they make sense because we don’t want to look like a dumba—s and actually need to know the answer. Wipe the brown off your nose while you’re at it. 

Heath Yancey is a Humor Columnist at The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at humor@cavalierdaily.com.

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