College tour guides have to answer dozens of questions. From “What does the blue light do?” to “Do coeds share bathrooms?”, the questions span from normal to bizarre. While many of the questions are regarding academics, the bulk are certainly concerning extracurricular activities.
One of the key assets of the Georgetown experience is the prestigious academics on the Hilltop, yet the undergraduate experience is more than just academics. Students at Georgetown love to define themselves not by their major or minor, but usually by what they do outside of the classroom.
When other students ask us what we do, we respond by listing our role in Georgetown University Student Association, our job at The Corp, our position on the debate team or whatever else we’re inclined to do or not do. With such a strong identity surrounding our activities outside the classroom, too many cases exist in which Georgetown’s academic commitments are unnecessarily inflexible, in effect discouraging our participation in the world outside academia.
In order to participate in our activities, sometimes we miss class. Varsity athletes are intimately familiar with this constant conflict. By completing the necessary paperwork, planning and training, varsity athletes can be excused from class in order to represent Georgetown in competition out of town. Those who have comparable competitions should be able to do the same.
While I do firmly believe that it should be up to individual professors to decide how to handle a student whose extracurriculars involve missing class, the university should do better to foster an environment in which it is not only encouraged to join clubs and groups, but also where professors allow leeway in class attendance when essential participation requires one to miss a reasonable number of classes. To be clear, I am not endorsing a system where one could skip class whenever one wants, and I also believe that every organization should do its utmost to make sure students have no need to miss school. But as anyone on a competitive club sport or debate team knows, sometimes in order to compete, Friday afternoon travel is a necessary conflict with the recitation and discussion sessions that meet during those times.
I have encountered many stories of students who are unable to attend a competition because of a professor who said that their grade would suffer. Luckily, I have never had this experience. Whenever I have had to miss a class for a club activity my professors have been very understanding. They have let me know what I need to do to make up for missing the class and have supported me in my engagement with campus and the community outside of academic coursework.
Georgetown is a university that prospers on promoting the whole person. But for many of us, the whole person includes what we do when ICC is empty of professors and MultiSport Facility is available for club sport use.
When professors deny students the opportunity to participate in events and competitions that their club or team is attending, it not only hurts the group that depends on them, but it does not allow the student to partake in everything this amazing school has to offer.
As a member of an organization that necessitates travel for competition, I am honored to represent my school and compete at a high level across the country, but when conflicts arise that make it so our members cannot compete, it is frustrating to see that Georgetown is not acting in the best interests of its students.
What our students do outside the classroom is just as important as what they do in it, and the university needs to do a better job of reminding professors of this fact and allowing students to make the most out of their Georgetown experience.
JOSHUA DOSTAL is a freshman in the College and a member of the Georgetown University Mock Trial team.