Kathleen Moyer | February 8, 2016
Over the years I have noticed that there are some common misperceptions that faculty and staff members have about students at La Salle. From things that I’ve been told by students at other colleges and universities, many of these misperceptions do not seem to be exclusive to La Salle. In some cases, these misperceptions have caused me to experience more stress over my college career, and I’m sure that other students are experiencing the same thing. Therefore, I’d like to refute some of these misperceptions now.
1. We’re not just here to party.
Some faculty and staff members assume that partying is a priority of all students. In their minds, social life is always more important than academics in the lives of college students. This becomes obvious when they make comments in passing like, “Don’t forget about your reading over the weekend, which I’m sure that you all will do because you probably won’t be doing anything else this weekend.” This is a problem in and of itself, because, while some students may put parties before their work, it’s certainly not the case with everyone, and making that assumption is misguided. However, it becomes even more of a problem when professors assume that they only reason why a student could possibly be absent from class is because he/she is hungover. When professors make this assumption, some students feel pressure to go to class even when the have a serious problem or illness that would otherwise prevent them from going to class. For example, a couple of years ago, I had the flu and I considered going to class anyway because I didn’t want my professor to assume that I was just hungover and take points off of my participation grade.
2. We may not be in the “real world” yet, but we have real problems.
Faculty and staff should be mindful of the fact that students do have problems that they have to deal with. Some faculty and staff members seem to have a belief that college students are constantly having a good time and nothing ever goes wrong for us, because we’re not in the real world yet. As I already mentioned, some students have medical problems. Believe it or not, we don’t have perfect immune systems. We get sick, some of us have more permanent medical issues that can interfere with school, and many of us have to deal with mental health problems, like stress – some of which may be caused by school. In addition, students also have personal problems to deal with. We have lives outside of school, and sometimes problems arise that interfere with school. I know it may be hard for some to believe but the death of a family member is more important than completing a reading for class. Finally, most of us struggle financially. Please keep that in mind before requiring us to go on an expensive trip, or telling us to get the latest edition of a textbook, when the almost-identical previous edition is much cheaper. I’m not saying to let your students slide when they are clearly slacking off, but when you see a student struggling, don’t automatically assume it’s just because they’re a bad student.
3. We don’t all feel entitled.
This is probably a stereotype that applies to all millennials, but I’ve come to realize that some faculty/staff members think that we’re entitled. I can’t stand this stereotype, because I don’t think it applies to me, and I know tons of millennials who don’t feel a sense of entitlement. I believe that everything should be earned and I don’t expect to be automatically handed anything in life. Assuming that your students are like this gives you a negative impression of them before you even get to know them individually.
4. Some of us are here for more than a degree.
Finally, I have noticed that many professors and other professionals in higher education seem to think that the sole reason students go to college is to have a better chance of getting a high-paying job. While this is definitely a factor that plays into the decision to go to college, and an important one at that, there are other reasons for attending college. Some students, myself included, genuinely enjoy learning. I like learning new ideas and discussing those ideas with other people in my classes. My friends and I often talk about political, religious, and philosophical ideas that we’ve learned about in class. Don’t always assume that students are just in college to get a degree and get out. Some of us enjoy going to class and have aspirations that we are working to reach.
I understand that when you work with a large number of students every day, it can be hard to get to know them on a personal level. After working with so many students over the years, it may be easy to begin thinking of them as simply “the student body”. However, just like faculty and staff members, each student has his/her own personality, goals, and aspirations. Therefore, holding broad assumptions about all students can limit a faculty or staff member’s ability to help students succeed. Every student has distinct needs, and misperceptions can lead to those needs going unaddressed. Recognizing and invalidating these misperceptions can help both faculty/staff members and students do their work to the best of their ability, enhancing each’s potential for future success.