Thursday 1 October 2015

How to Succeed as an Undergraduate: 9 things not to do

In UK academia, teaching staff are now sent almost daily directives telling us how to make our students feel at home and Enhance The Student Customer Experience. Many more management emails list things we may not do or say to them. While I have always been very pro-student, because so many of them are impoverished, anxious about their futures,  lonely,  and easily exploited, the beginning of teaching term seems an appropriate time to remind everyone that pedagogical relationships, like any others, are two-way.

There are several sure-fire ways of alienating your lecturer.  I am not bothered about texting on silent mobile phones, packed lunches, or anything else which does not disturb me or fellow students. But in the name of cordial entente I do recommend that students do NOT do the following (all examples, in ascending order of obnoxiousness, drawn directly from my personal lecturing experience).

 1  Write emails to her opening ‘Hey, Prof.’, ‘Hey Ms.’ or simply ‘Can you pop along all the materials for last week’s lecture and tell me the gist?  I can’t remember whether I attended it or not.’

   2  Snog your girlfriend/boyfriend noisily while she is lecturing. The Greeks may be exciting stuff, but there are limits.

   3  When she has spent several hours reading your thesis draft and annotating it with constructive criticism and suggestions, belligerently defend every point and demand to know what her academic qualifications are.

   4  Fail to wash and don clean clothes before tutorials in small offices with poor ventilation.

   5  Ask her the following: ‘I am paying the same fees for this course as Emily Klopstock von Metterhausen. Why has she got a First for that essay and I have only got a 2:2?’

  6     Say to her after a lecture on Greek tragedy, ‘It’s really strange: there’s a famous woman who’s written this great book on Greek tragedy with the same name as you, Miss.’

  7      Tell her you are the warlock of the coven of witches in Newbury and send her a mysterious wand inscribed with a spell naming her as Hera and yourself as Ixion.  (The latter sexually harassed the former).

   8   When she tells your class that she is shaken up because she feels bad about accidentally killing a badger driving to the station that morning, go onto Wikipedia immediately after the lecture and insert ‘Notorious Badger Murderer’ into the first paragraph of the entry under her name.

  9  Ask her when you have been introduced to her at the end of term departmental party if she would do a personal pole dance display for you and your mates in the rugby club.

Note to any former students who read this and recognise themselves: I am currently out of the country and not readily available to correspond.


  1. Apart from badger (alas, not native here), your experience agrees with mine, which began to prevail about a decade ago. "Social" media were less evolved then, but...