Sorry, no time for protest

IâÄôm taking time out from racing from one activity to the next to respond to your Nov. 23 editorial, “The state of student apathy.” On one hand, I applaud it, because youâÄôre right âÄî nothing is going to change until students band together to demand change. But you really donâÄôt go far enough. You donâÄôt point out that our whole college workload is structured to keep students apathetic, or at least seemingly apathetic.

The reality is that many students are chronically pissed. But they have been immersed in busywork systems for so long that they either donâÄôt fully recognize whatâÄôs happening or donâÄôt know how to fight it. I fully understand whatâÄôs happening and yet week after week I find myself unable to do anything more than frantically move and work to maintain the barest minimum of human connections.

Professors need to take at least some responsibility here, too. IâÄôd like to know what theyâÄôre thinking when they routinely assign work that could never be completed in anywhere near the amount of hours that correspond with the credits for a particular course. IâÄôve had three-credit courses that regularly took up far more than their six hours per week outside of class theyâÄôre supposed to take up. What are we supposed to do when a three-credit class takes 10 or 12 hours a week of studying outside of class? What do we do when four-credit classes take up 16 hours a week outside of class? I particularly love hearing professors say that the hours-per-credit workload is for students to get a C, not an A. Should wages be set up that way as well?

“Oh, if you only work the hours assigned, we pay 70 percent of your wage. The full wage is for people who work time and a half or
double time, really.”

ItâÄôs interesting to me that so many people in power in academia appear to disbelieve in the 40-hour work week. Students who do all the work theyâÄôre supposed to do spend upward of 60 hours a week at it, between classes and homework. ThatâÄôs not including whatever hours they work in paid jobs, which most have. No wonder we have a country where the 40-hour work week is undermined at all levels, where the people coming out of these institutions have been processed to not stand up for free time âÄî time to think, talk with others, maintain strong relationships, time to inform themselves politically, time to organize, anything we do for its own sake, rather than because someoneâÄôs breathing down our neck, blackmailing us with paychecks and grades and the fear for our survival.

On a related note, the professors who hog studentsâÄô time do a real disservice to the professors who do their best to keep assigned workloads truly within the allotted hours per credit. What often happens is that the desperate student takes time away from the other, less demanding class to fulfill the ravenous demands of the unreasonable professors. It has little to do with a studentâÄôs level of interest, either. I may want to spend more time thinking and talking with others about a great story I read âÄî IâÄôm an English major âÄî but instead hurry through the story and march on to other tasks that fill my days.

But professors know all this; they were students themselves. Do they not remember? Do they do their readings and count up how long their papers and assignments take? ItâÄôs basic math. Why are professors not banding with students to demand huge changes in this University? Changes which would include steep reduction in the amount of vice presidents, a reduction in work hours for teachers and students to allow for a healthier, more humane lifestyle and more transparency and democracy in our public institution that an administrative layer treats as their private property?