Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Have An Announcement: No More Announcement

Teaching the very large (600 students) Intro to IR class as both advantages and disadvantages.  The topic is fun, the students are smart and engaged, it is always relevant and always just a bit different.  But the size tends to generate a few challenges.  Managing eight teaching assistants is one.  The ten percent problem is another.  The market share problem has been increasingly a source of stress.

Market share?  Yes, just like the US wields a great deal of power because firms and countries want to sell to such a large market of consumers, just as the European Union deliberately sought an internal market that would increase bargaining power at international fora, and just as China is now using its market as leverage in international negotiations, my class of 600 students is now seen as a market for announcements.  It is the one room on campus where charities, student groups, experimental psychologists and others can direct their messages, their pleas, whatever to a very large captured audience.

At first, I restricted announcements to the relatively non-partisan charities and to university groups/departments.  So, students asked but were denied the ability to announce to the class their favorite candidate in a student election, for instance.  I didn't feel I could give equal time to everyone unless the time was set at zero.  But each time I taught this course, I received more and more requests.  This kind of gets in the way of my teaching the course.  Last year (or perhaps the time before that), I restricted announcements to only those related to my department (the Poli Sci Studies Association) and the psych experiments (they wanted lots of subjects).

I still get requests, and they seem to get stranger.  Last year, a kid stood up in the middle of class, seemingly to ask a question, but was really trying to do a stunt to impress a girl.  As my daughter would say, DOUBLE FAIL!  This fall, I had one student who asked permission, fully aware of my policy on no annoucements (except for the Poli Sci stuff) policy, to sing Happy Birthday to his friend who was turning 19.  19?!!  What is the significance of that particular year?  Sure, when I was in college, 19 meant being able to drink beer (not wine or harder liquor, so there were beer-based coolers) in Ohio.  But here?  Anyhow, I said no, of course.

The funny thing is that some students get really, really upset--that I have denied them a forum that they deserve.  One student a couple of years ago complained that he/she came all the way from Australia to work hard for this charity and announce stuff in my class.  I almost felt bad about wasting his/her trip, but I was pretty sure that the student's life was not so centered around my audience.  But the strange entitlement was not unique to this one student.

It is a pretty strange development, one that I would have never expected, that one of the big hassles of teaching 600 students is protecting our time from poachers.

Speaking of our time, check out this horribly poached take on "our time."

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