November 2004 (v7 i3)
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Semester closes with last-ditch efforts to boost scores
Disproportionate class participation grade causes students to contribute, freak out
by Elizabeth Barksdale, Associate Editor

Clearly, student #257 is a miserable failure.
CAMPUS — With mere days before the end of the semester, Dr. John Coles' emphasis on class participation in his 8 a.m. Psychology 301 class has left many of his students trying to sneak in one last chance to secure their grade.

"As you can see on the syllabus, 50 percent of your overall grade will depend on your scores on exams," Coles told his students on the first day of class. "20 percent will come from homework assignments and regular attendance, and 30 percent will depend on your class participation."

The participation grade failed to register with the class at first, but after a few moments, a flurry of hands flew into the air.

"Um, sir, 30 percent?" asked nutrition sophomore Ashley Binn.

"I want all of you to be actively involved and communicate ideas. Just because this is a large class doesn't mean you all can't contribute something to it."

"Oh," continued Dr. Coles, "and you should probably all sit in the same seat every class to make it easier for Marcy to keep tabs on how many times you comment. I'm sure she'll learn your names pretty quickly."

Marcy Heniker, the teaching assistant, stood up near the back of the room and waved at the bewildered undergraduates.Coles proceeded to lecture continuously until the last 10 minutes of class, telling any students who raised their hands to leave questions until the lecture was finished.

"Man, I held up my arm for so long that I thought it was going to fall off," said physics freshman Johnny Wu. "This almost makes me miss high school."

After the events of the first class, students battled for prime seats in the front rows. Coles soon enforced a stricter seating chart.

"How am I going to get to know you if you all keep shifting around?" he asked with a grin, shaking his head. He proceeded to call upon only class members in the rows closest to him, ignoring the desperately waving arms of the students in the back of the auditorium.

"Back when we still cared, some kids even tried standing up on chairs to get his attention," said philosophy junior Kyle Flatterwatz. "A freakin' flare gun wouldn't make this guy notice anyone."

When Coles does occasionally call on a member of the class sitting near the back of the auditorium, that student often feels compelled to talk for as long as possible in attempt to improve his or her participation grade.

"Yeah — wait, you pointed at me, right?" asked a confused Kelly Patterson last Thursday as she scanned her area for other raised hands. Patterson was assigned a seat in the back of the room on account of being a late sleeper; the more eager students at the front of the room believe she and her neighbors to be lazy, stupid or a combination of both.

"Yeah, I think that Freud was right about most stuff, but he should have done something more like Piaget because lobotomies are going to save the world and schizophrenia is sad," Patterson began. "I used to go out with this guy who had ADD, and he had problems just like you described. One time we had this long conversation about Freud and his mother and that funny movie with Robert De Niro."

Her response dragged on for another 10 minutes while her classmates squirmed in their seats.

When Patterson finally ran out of breath, Coles beamed and said, "Very good points you made there. Would you like to read out of the textbook on page 106 for us?"

Coles' students feel relieved that the semester is nearing an end, and many are looking forward to bubbling in all "Very Unsatisfactory" ratings on course instructor surveys.
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