I’m generally not one to complain about a chance to get out of class after only 20 minutes. However, I’m going to do just that by complaining about this phenomenon in that is “syllabus days,” because it’s worth questioning.
What exactly is the purpose of the first two days of class?
There is, of course, the rare professor who begins instruction on those days (and is subsequently grumbled about under breaths and on social media), but the vast majority of professors read over syllabuses that are already self-explanatory and then let their classes out.
While this is, I suppose, a way to ease the transition back into classes and life spent outside the clutches of Netflix and warm sheets, it also seems an egregious waste of time.
What about the students who commute from other towns to attend class? They don’t have the option to skip out on these days, because as unimportant as they are academically, syllabus days are critical in an administrative sense: don’t attend and risk being dropped from the course.
What about the populations of students on campus who work, have families or bear any number of responsibilities in addition to classes? Wouldn’t their time be better spent in these capacities, if no actual learning or intellectually engaging activities can be expected in these first few days?
I also question why classes need to start on a Thursday each semester. Again, it is nice to ease into the semester by only having two days of classes to worry about, but starting classes a week later on a Monday seems like a more logical choice. I’m sure there is some sort of administrative purpose for starting on a Thursday, but it doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of students.
It also makes little to no sense that some classes get off to an early start, while classes that take place Monday through Wednesday are forced to proffer their syllabuses the week after, squandering even more time.
There seems to be a fairly simple solution to this problem. First, students and professors should both assume that we students are responsible adults capable of reading a straightforward document like a syllabus on our own time. If this is a responsibility students aren’t willing to take on, we should assume that we will accept the consequences in the form of our lackluster grades at semester’s end.
Professors should have the opportunity to go over their syllabuses, of course, or if they feel the need to explain specific elements of them, but it should not be taboo to begin lecturing or a basic introduction to the course on that first day, as well. If we were to start on a Monday and attend a full week of classes, no class would have more time than another, and once the week ended, we would have a good idea of what all our classes entailed for us.
Perhaps we should let go of syllabus days, treat students like the adults that we are (or should be), and in so doing, give us a few more days off to enjoy break by acting like the kids we wish we could be again.