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Professors abandon students by not awarding ‘A’s

Column by Katherine Hunt

Hunt is a senior marketing and management double major and can be reached at katherine.hunt@drake.edu

Walking into a brand new class on the first sunshiny day of the new semester, you look around. It’s a nice change from a big lecture hall or that forced AOI class. There are people in this class you’re friends with, and everyone seems friendly enough. Then, a general silence falls upon the room as the clock strikes 2 o’clock. With a flourish, the professor starts directly on time, not wanting to waste precious moments on breathing. The syllabus looks tough, but that’s college life anyways.

The real problem comes when the professor bluntly states about five minutes into class, “I don’t give out As. If you want an A, good luck, because you will then be one of three people who might get one.” Does this statement sound familiar? To me, I’ve heard this all too many times throughout my academic career, even in high school.

Why some professors say this on the first day, I really don’t know. I mean, it’s hard enough to motivate students to go to class, much less devote their evenings to a course when they can be hanging out with friends or shopping at the mall. But to go and bluntly state that As won’t be handed out? That’s just wrong. Maybe the people who use this principle believe that this will drive each and every student to excel, but this obviously backfires. Sure, there will be a couple of students who will pull an all-nighter every night just to maintain a 4.0 GPA, but that’s not the consensus of the student population. Yes, we as students want good grades, but we don’t want to sacrifice everything else in our lives, including other classes and their homework.

In the broad spectrum of things, getting a B, C or even a D once in a while will not destroy a student’s career. After all, I have been told by more than one person in my life, “Ds get degrees.” (That must have been part of the whole ‘D+’ campaign, but I digress.) In all seriousness though, not being on the President’s List one semester will not hurt anyone. Sure, your GPA may be a 3.9 instead of a 4.0 when you graduate, but the longer a person is out of college, the less the coursework matters. Employers want real world experience more than anything and only take college coursework as a substitute since students are so new to the “real world.”

For me personally, being told on the first day of a brand new class that I probably won’t get an A unless I give up my social life, career and my hand to carpal tunnel, my mind immediately checks out of the class. I give an average effort to the class and Facebook on while the professor talks. If the professor doesn’t want to even give his or her students the chance to excel, then fine. We won’t excel, and we will become your desired class of only a few high achievers scattered amongst the average students that apparently the rest of us are.

If professors really want to get students motivated, get students involved. Share the love of a course or the material behind it. Be unique. Be different, but don’t be cruel.  Use memorable in-class examples like Professor Lou Ann Simpson’s BUSL 060 course, or better yet, talk to the students on an equal level like Dean Randall Blum in BUS 001 to 004. Yes, we students may not have a degree yet, but that’s why we’re here. Professors can’t truly expect us to become young, successful professionals unless we’re seen and treated as such.

So, until those professors who don’t give As understand that students just want to be respected and given a chance, I will be on Facebook and Twitter with the same lack of respect and demotivation that was just shown towards me by the lecturer in front of the white board.


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1 Comment

  1. student March 11, 2013

    I think the root of the problem in our educational culture is that people aim for grades instead of learning. A lot of people cram and do well on exams and in classes, only to forget half of the material the next year. I have been guilty of this in the past with classes. Over time, I’ve learned that it is much more satisfying to be interested and respect what I learn, instead of dreading the AOIs and worrying about my grades. Intrinsic motivation will go a lot further than being extrinsically motivated by a grade and GPA

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