With the new semester upon us, it is that time again for undergraduates: time to make ambitious promises to ourselves about our study habits and time management for the upcoming year. This semester will be different, we say to ourselves. We’ll stick to a schedule, do all of our reading, finish assignments early, get enough sleep, cut back on the coffee and maybe even get that nonprofit we’ve been dreaming about off the ground.
Most of us, though, have been at this long enough to realize that we’re not going to do any of that. I suggest one smaller, more realistic goal, because every go-getter knows that the key is in setting attainable goals, after all. I call on Georgetown students: Don’t go on Facebook during class time. Or Twitter. Or Buzzfeed. Or Casual Hoya. Or The Economist. Or that website that’s having a giant sale on an item you’ve been coveting. Go to class and engage.
The first reason to do this is the incredible sum of money that you, your family, the university, a scholarship program, the government or some combination thereof is volunteering so that you can be here. According to Georgetown’s current tuition figures, a course that meets twice weekly for 75 minutes costs $55 per session. If you plan to spend those 75 minutes surfing the net, it would be much cheaper to head to Starbucks for Wi-Fi and spend $6 on a Frappucino.
The second reason is that professors can totally tell what you’re doing. The Georgetown faculty are smart, after all, and they can easily discern the difference between the face of a bright-eyed, engaged student and that of one whose glazed eyes are fixed to a single spot as he or she scrolls through an endless Facebook news feed.
The third reason is respect for the students who would eagerly take your spot at the university. I would venture to guess that the majority of students who ended up rejected or on the waitlist would have shown more respect and appreciation in the classroom if any of them were able to switch places. I think this point gets at the crux of the issue: A lack of attention paid in class signifies a lack of appreciation of our education and even a sense of entitlement.
At the same time, Georgetown is not doing its full part to incentivize academic engagement. A clear relation exists between this failure and the rising monetary priorities of higher education: At the end of the day, the university has to keep the customer satisfied. As a result, one in two students graduates with Latin honors — figures that suggest that some of those students must have paid minimal attention in class. But for a student body as intelligent and motivated as ours, academic engagement should not have to be incentivized; it is the reason you came here.
Some will retort that they also came here for the cultural capital, clubs and access to internships that Georgetown offers and that sometimes time management demands multitasking — perhaps responding to a few emails or doing work for another course during class time. Some will also say they are disenchanted with their classes and no longer see them as a viable route to personal growth.
To these students, I would say that all of the non-academic components of the Georgetown experience are designed to complement your studies, not vice versa.
Therefore, I urge every Georgetown student to challenge himself by crafting his own experience of a course and questioning the boundaries of its ideas. You might grow more this way than by sorting Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) mail or by scrolling through another tired Buzzfeed list.
You have only four years to access a high-caliber Georgetown undergraduate education. I have been floored by how many students forego this opportunity by checking out in class. So make a new-semester resolution to close the laptop and open your ears. Let’s take this chance to prove ourselves capable of having a larger role in our college experience.
Nicholas Dirago is a senior in the College. CURMUDGEON’S CORNER appears every other Tuesday.