It Was One of Those Semesters: Fall 2010

I was surprised when students in my two writing classes, feature and introductory news, declined to participate in a conference call with the President of the United States, September 27, 2010, as student journalists at 300 other student publications did.

Not one expressed an interest.

The result of partisan sentiment, as in he’s a Democrat and I’m Republican? On this so-called liberal campus on the Upper East side of Manhattan?Or, as in I’m a birther and he’s from Mars? One student in the feature writing class did use, subsequently, the official transcript of conference call but the article lacked vim and vigor though it was adequate.

I also was mildly surprised that the Hunter student publication, the Envoy, declined to participate (but I was really surprised by the Editor-in-Chief’s hissy snit/fit that was cited as the reasoning for the lack of participation).

I eventually regarded the decisions as commentary on the state of student journalism at Hunter. But before the assumption: In light of what I considered a major opportunity for student journalists, I tried to generate in the introductory reporting class a post mortem class discussion about news and news decision making and what’s important and, hopefully, learn what was on their minds. I queried my introductory news writing class, QMfE, “About 300 other student news publications participated, and I was just wondering why no one here saw the value of volunteering for what could be at the very least a really good portfolio piece.”

But blank stares and my sense that the Duh Imperative could be at work, subliminally, convinced me to move on.

Basic Reporting: 4A’s, 4B+’s, 2B’s, 1B-, 2CRs [credit for course], 2Fs.

The first drafts of the first writing assignment contained egregious errors so foul that I could have flunked all of them. I didn’t. The rewrites could have fitted on a bell curve ranging from tolerable to  poor.

Subsequently in the semester, one student whined about having to use the class wiki because she didn’t want to record her password for future use. Another was serially reprimanded for drinking water near her computer even through the F-consequences were in the class syllabus. [I really didn’t want to resort to the F  but this semester serial violators will have to Pay the Piper.]

Another, 30, subsequently teared up because of the home work assignments: QMfE: “Are you going to flunk me? Are you going to flunk me?” AYGtFM Etcetera. Resentment was building – I hate the whining aloud – but I resisted primal urges and started holding hands. [There, there now. Just do the homework assignments and you can’t fail]. Not this semester.

Feature Writing: 1A+, 1A, 1B+, 2Bs, 1C+, 2INCs [Incompletes].

Very talented Class. Very undisciplined students. One teary-eye episode. One snit fit, QMfE, “I’m not using the wiki,” snort, snort. Which changed to, after the primal warning, QMfE, “Yeah, duh. Wow. I love the wiki.” The A+ surprised me. But I was really surprised how the rest just sort of bummed out.

So, for the record: Many of my colleagues regard the students as not too bright and unworthy of their time. My take : Talented students, many undisciplined … and in a program that offers them little to be inspired about.

The Usual Suspects

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