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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    It’s them, not us.

    For those of you who dreamed of college as the place where you can finally be considered an individual and express your intellectual freedom, be prepared to be disillusioned.

    You will realize that, like high school, you are expected to regurgitate the same ideas and information back to the teachers that taught them to you. Unlike in high school, the penalties for not complying are much greater. You will find that the difficulty of your classes is inversely proportional to the quality of the professor.

    As you come across tougher classes, the method of study is to teach yourself, as the likelihood that a professor will effectively teach is just too high an expectation. Some of you may achieve intellectual independence, but not in a classroom, especially not in the classrooms at Stony Brook University.

    In the large lecture halls of our university, professors identify us not by names but numbers. You will be one number among five hundred or more students in one particular class.

    In the three years I have been in college, I have come to categorize professors as belonging to two distinct species: the elite and the somewhat competent. The elite species are those professors that have multiple publications and research projects and have even won awards.

    They have great minds and even greater egos. Classes taught by the elite are usually taught in large lecture halls where students have no voice. There is no chance to ask questions, discuss, or in any way actively engage with the professor.

    The professor is merely there to hear the sound of his own voice. On the off-chance that someone does ask a question, the elite professor quickly brushes it off and alludes to visiting during office hours. And so I did visit him during office hours.

    When I arrived promptly, I had asked him if he could tell how to solve a particular calculus problem. After chewing his turkey sandwich with a bit of mustard on the side of his mouth, he finally replied, “Well, how would you solve this problem?”

    Obviously, if I had known, I would not have come in the first place. When he realized I didn’t have a clue, he put his sandwich down, rolled his eyes, and proceeded with the question.

    When I expressed my difficulty with the class, the elite professor said, “If you go to class, you shouldn’t have a problem.” But I did have a problem. I had a problem with the fact that more than fifty percent of our class was getting only fifty percent of the exam questions right. The elite professor can come in many forms.

    They can be stern, the can be eccentric, they can make jokes, and share your taste in movies and TV shows, but in the end, they are all the same. The real problem is not our study habits, but their teaching practice.

    Students, if you get a some-what competent professor, then consider yourselves lucky for the competent professor is beyond our reach.

    The somewhat competent are those professors that take the time to engage us students to the discussion; they are perhaps those professors that have not yet received tenure.

    They teach in manner that may be dull and tedious, but nonetheless effective. And more importantly, they test us on material that he or she has actually taught. What a novel approach! However, what is lacking in the “somewhat competent” is the genuine dedication to students. Unfortunately, professors of the competent variety are scarce among most college campuses.

    Is it too much to ask that the people hired to teach us have the capabilities to teach? It seems that whomever you ask, whether they are from a private or public institution, opinions of professors remain to be the same.

    Unless something changes the status quo, the teaching styles of these so-called professors will continue to be an endemic plaguing mass numbers of students each year.

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