College Vows to Favor the Unmotivated

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by Diana Senechal

Professor Hu invites students to his office for calculus tutoring, but surprises them with games of desktop H.O.R.S.E. "It helps my underperforming students get into the proper mindset for success," says Hu.
Professor Hu invites students to his office for calculus tutoring, but surprises them with games of desktop H.O.R.S.E. instead. “It helps my under-performing students get into the proper mindset for success,” says Hu.

Baltimore, MD—In an effort to reverse decades of bias against students who don’t care about their studies, Medaigual College has announced its plan to give them highest priority and honor. “We have been caught in a century-old dance of favoring the eager student, who favors us back,” its press release reads. “It is time for a new foxtrot.”

Citing research showing that unmotivated students have fewer advantages than motivated students (who, for one thing, have the advantage of motivation), President Penny Bernard urged all Medaigual faculty to come to the rescue of the poor. “If you see a student struggling in your class—and by that I mean a student who isn’t doing the work—then it is your duty to offer material assistance. For instance, you might do his laundry so that he has those extra hours for study. Or else you could get him a ticket to the movies. Some of those kids have so much stress in their lives that they can’t concentrate. A night out at the cinema could do wonders.”

Faculty have been instructed to provide appetizers during their office hours and to discourage high-performing students from visiting. “When one of those intellectual students shows up at your door, it isn’t for help,” she said. “It’s usually to engage you in cerebral conversation. Which is fine now and then—after you’ve given help to all who need it.”

According to Steve Vzdor, the college’s chief instructional psychologist, students lose interest in their studies because they lack a strong bond with the professor. Thus, to create such a bond, a professor should spend personal time with the students, inviting them over on weekends and maybe even taking them out to the countryside. “Only do that if you’re married, though,” he said. “If you’re single, or cohabitating without marriage, this could cause a misunderstanding.” Single professors, he noted, were better suited to service; in addition to doing laundry, they might clean students’ dorm rooms, type out their papers (provided they were clearly dictated or handwritten), buy them a winter coat, or pay their credit card bills.

Most faculty expressed outrage over the new plan. “I came here to teach mathematics, not to pay for my students’ trips to Cancun,” said Alex Lobachevsky, who claims no relation to Nikolai Ivanovich. “These kids don’t even know what a cosine is, and I’m being asked to co-sign their loans. Bad joke, I know. The point is, when I started teaching at this college, it was normal to encourage students who showed interest and ability in mathematics. Now you can get fired for doing such a thing.”

“Times have changed,” retorted Bernard. “You can’t pour old wine into new bottles. We’ve got a lot of kids here who were told that college was just like the workplace. They were given mock interviews, badges, digital portfolios, you name it. Then they get here and find out that they’re not getting paid, for one thing, and that they’re expected to do some reading and writing. Understandably, they aren’t happy. Who would be? Oh, some students enjoy their courses,” she corrected herself, “but they’re the ones we don’t have to worry about. They’ll be fine no matter what.”

Students’ reactions were mixed. “This would be great, if the profs really did what they said they’d do,” said Vince Pascual, a sophomore who failed all of his courses. “But. like. let’s take last week. Professor Harmon was supposed to come do my laundry, but she never showed. I called the English Department to complain, and I was told that they just fired her for another noncompliance case like this. Now I’m still waiting for someone to come do my laundry. They haven’t even told me who’s replacing her, and in the meantime my socks are stinking up.”

Alice Thévenot, a visiting student from Paris, held a more positive view. “I am released from pity,” she explained, “and I can just concentrate on my studies. Sometimes I envy the disenchanted students and want to be in their position, but then I remember the owls of Baudelaire. So I don’t budge. I spread out in the library and read.”

Ms. Thévenot’s situation might not be so cushy in the near future, warned Bernard. “Ultimately we want to bring everyone to a similar level of motivation,” she said. “The unmotivated students will be a little more interested, and the motivated ones a little less. Equality,” she concluded proudly, “has to begin within our hearts and minds.”