Student revolt inspires

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Every time it happens, I feel like I’m at a comedy club watching an awful comic get walked out on. I feel bad for the poor guy, but I can’t help thinking that it’s his or her fault, at least a little bit. I know they’re trying, but that doesn’t make them good.

That’s what it feels like when a class decides to revolt against a professor at CSUN. Most students know what I’m talking about: When a class gets so out of control that the students literally cannot take it anymore. After weeks or months of nonsense, unclear assignments, impossible tests and incomprehensible material, the professor is challenged verbally during class. And that sparks a revolt.

It’s happened to me twice in my three years at CSUN. Last semester in an upper-division general education course in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, I “studied” under a professor who showed up for our once-a-week three-hour class just seven times. Class sessions were canceled as frequently as they were held.

The professor lectured twice, and for 20 minutes each time. Three of the six times I actually attended class, we all watched a feature-length Hollywood film. Trying to compare the syllabus to what we were actually doing in class was hilarious, and students had no idea what was going on. So they revolted.

Toward the end of the semester, as students were starting to get nervous about their grade in a class they hadn’t learned a thing in, it happened. The professor came in 15 minutes late and students wanted to know what the final assignment would be and how it would be graded. The professor gave us some guff, answered one of the inappropriately phrased queries with something snappy, and the class lost it.

It got to a point where someone said aloud, “This is flipping ridiculous!” but without the “flipping.” The students were visibly angry. The professor left for a few minutes to compose him/herself in her office and make a handout for the final assignment.

As students waited around for another 20 minutes, a note that would later be given to the professor’s department chair was passed around the room in search of signatures. Students lamented about how hard it was to drive all the way to campus for such a joke of a class. A couple of students who worked full-time during the day said they felt like their tuition had been wasted. Several students who were majoring in the class’ department complained that they needed this material to move on to the next class and succeed. All around, it was a sad state of affairs at CSUN. The students later walked out.

But the students drew the line, and that was important. I sympathized with the professor a little bit, because I know professors don’t get paid much and that she probably had taught at 14 community colleges that day to try and make ends meet. Still, there was no excuse for his/her attitude about the whole thing. There was no regret.

Students at this campus seem to be either really defensive about their education or completely unconcerned. There are a lot of working professionals here who need a bachelor’s degree to move up the socio-economic ladder for their families. There are also a lot of punks and scuzzballs who just don’t care. My favorites are the former.

Watching these students completely flip out on a professor in the middle of a class because the education they were getting wasn’t good enough was moving. It made an otherwise apathetic student – me – care about the role education plays in our lives.

But then it happened again. My best friend had it happen in one of his classes too, ironically in the same college. I’m told a student actually yelled out, “You don’t know how to teach!” at that particular professor before the entire class stormed out in a fit of awkward fury. There’s nothing like an impromptu walk out.

And now I feel it happening again in a class I’m in this semester. Every day, the professor is bombarded with aggressive questions about the direction of the class. Most of the time, the professor doesn’t seem to know where he is.

But when I catch of glimpse of recognition, I feel bad for him. It’s like watching a comic crash and burn, and that’s the saddest thing of all. Poor CSUN.

Ryan Denham can be reached at ryan.denham@csun.edu.