It was a beautiful and sunny day on the Lory Student Center
Plaza and Adam Cole was playing the guitar while talking to a
friend. He had a test in one hour but was not studying, and he said
if he went to class it would have been the first time he attended
“When you can get notes online, and you’ve got a good textbook,
you can home-school your way through four years no problem,” said
Cole, a junior biomedical sciences major.
John Weiss, a business professor, also questions the value that
students may receive from their teachers.
“While I believe that if a student is here for an education they
should prioritize their education higher in all instances, I can
understand why they don’t,” said business instructor Weiss who,
like other teachers interviewed, admits to having skipped class
occasionally as an undergraduate. “Sometimes I think students also
skip because they don’t perceive value in what they’re getting from
class. And so it’s incumbent upon me to deliver good value for
Delivering value for Weiss means taking greater responsibility
for the education of his students.
“What I think a student should get out of class is something
that they could not get anywhere else under any other circumstance.
If I’m just reciting the textbook and not helping explain it, if
I’m not answering questions or giving them examples or different
view points, then I agree: there isn’t any value to class,” Weiss
said. “So for the majority of my students, my job is to motivate
them to be willing to engage themselves in the topic, and say to
them ‘it’s worth you putting the effort, because I can help you get
But sometimes too much value can be given.
“I don’t think students don’t want zero work, or zero stress.
They want work and challenge, but they want a reasonable amount and
not too much,” said Steve Davies, a professor in the agricultural
and resource economics department. Knowing just how much is too
much can be difficult because “you only know it’s too much when
they scream,” Davies said.
And learning is painful, Weiss said.
“We don’t really want to think any more than we have to to get
by, and because learning’s painful, my job isn’t really so much to
reduce the pain but to mitigate it to the point where it’s
worthwhile for students to pursue learning…like a coach,” Weiss
Weiss also said that it is hard to motivate everyone at the same
“I’ve got to pick that student out there who’s in the middle of
the class and say, ‘who is that person, and how can I get them to
maybe ratchet their game up a little bit?’ because the people at
the bottom are not going to come with me and the people at the top
are already there.”
Soledad Francis, a Spanish professor, acknowledges that much
responsibility lies with the teacher, but sees each subject as
different with some requiring significantly greater investments
from the student.
“A student may think class is just a waste of time because they
can just study by themselves,” Francis said. “But you can see the
difference between someone who’s been in class and someone who’s
not because they’ll not know what we’ve talked about and placed
emphasis on because they’ve missed those things.”
Even if some classes require fewer investments from the student,
ultimately it is the student’s choice whether to skip classes.
Carly Dorman, a sophomore rangeland ecology major, has skipped
class three times.
“I figure that I’m paying for it, so I might as well get the
most for my money,” Dorman said.
And education is sometimes made more difficult by the limits
within which teachers are able to work.
“I used to err on the side of helping those on the lower end
because the upper end always gets it anyway,” Davies said. “But I’m
changing. I’m deciding over time that people who are putting the
work in deserve the most support and attention because the amount
of work I could put into the lower end is limited and it doesn’t
seem to make much difference.”