Top 10 syllabus red flags

Students, be warned

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Ben Rosenthal is a Top 10 Writer for The Cavalier Daily.

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

1. “There will not be much reading, only 100 or so pages per class”

The worst part of this sentence is that it shows a complete detachment from reality on the part of the professor. Bonus points if the font is smaller than a single grain of sand. Double bonus points if the reading is a completely irrelevant poem about the joys of the mighty alpaca that cannot possibly be relevant to any test, but you have to read it because there are mandatory online responses you have to submit through Collab every week. No, this is not about any course in particular. 

2. “Our final is on [insert last day of exams here]”

This hurts doubly in the spring semester, when freedom is on the horizon. The pain of knowing that the beach awaits you, but you must first write a 12-page final for American Economic History is brutal. “In six hours you’ll be at the beach, but first, describe how the invention of the steamboat revolutionized southern agriculture.” Fun. 

3. “You will need an iClicker for this course”

It should be a crime to make your students spend $50 on a piece of equipment they will use less than 10 times per semester. That’s $5 per click for a service that does what exactly? The allegedly very critical task of allowing students to answer multiple-choice questions? You know what else does that? 100 free-to-use websites. 

4. “There will be a group project”

Look, are group projects the spawn of Satan? No. I think people overreact to them, but they still aren’t preferable. College students are busy. Try getting four or five of them in the same room to hash out a project for Intro to Statistics and see how they react. Hint — they bite.

5. “Grading scale — A = 95”

What was the point of the Geneva convention if this is still allowed? It’s ridiculous. It’s the equivalent of having “must be 6-foot-1, drive a Maserati and speak French” in your Tinder bio. It’s technically possible, but it’s going to rule out a lot of great candidates. Don’t count out the 5-foot-10 guy with a new-ish bike who can read French but not speak it. He doesn’t deserve an A- just because your standards are too high.

6. “Discussion will meet at 8 a.m”

Nope. Nope. Nope. Look elsewhere. Find a different professor. If there isn’t a different professor, find a different class. If it’s a required class, find a different major. Look, I thought I could do it. I’m not the type of guy who sleeps in. Back home, I would be up by 8 a.m. on the weekends. But trust me, there is a difference between waking up naturally at 8 a.m. with nothing on the agenda and having a commitment at 8 a.m. Setting an alarm and dragging yourself out of bed and into the cold January air — I shudder. 

7. “There will be no rounding in this class”

The day I get an 86.8 percent and it isn’t rounded up to a juicy 87 is the day I drop out of Mr. Jefferson’s University. I know that sounds entitled, but this whole article sounds entitled, so roll with it. Look, that 0.2 is within the statistical margin of error. That’s one missed iClicker question. Have some empathy, professors. 

8. “You are allowed no more than two lecture absences, regardless of illness”

My jaw dropped my first semester when I read that exact line. I don’t get sick often — I have a perpetual cold from early October to mid-April, but severe illness do not run in my blood. However, why is getting sick a crime? “I’m sorry, I got mono. I’ll try harder next time?” 

9. “Participation will count for 25 percent of your grade”

This isn’t an automatic write-off. If your TA is a generous human being, it can actually be a blessing — thank you Essam. And for the more gregarious among us, this could be an absolute win. But for the timid, it can be nerve-wracking. It shouldn’t be, and college is the time to get over the fear of speaking up. But 25 percent turns said challenge into a sink-or-swim scenario. It’s a high-stakes game — a bit too risky for my blood.

10. “Room — 130 Gilmer Hall”

Why am I wasting the last spot on my list on something so subjective? Simply put — I believe that 130 Gilmer Hall is the devil’s room. It is a brick-encased dungeon with dim lighting and a 75-degree incline that makes it feel more like a bottomless pit than an auditorium. There is no room to walk by people on your way to a middle seat — unless you like giving everybody you’re walking by a free lap dance on your way over. And to top it all off, I’m pretty sure it’s haunted. My verdict — avoid at all cost. 

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