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Freshman Class Should Respect Professors, Colleagues

Guest Column by Philip D. Sarin '99

Respect for learning and a love of knowledge are among the factors which convinced the members of the Class of 1999 to attend MIT. Indeed, in my first three weeks at the Institute, I have met scores of people who have striven for excellence throughout their lives. I have encountered several whose passion and energy not only shine in the classroom, but also drive them athletically, socially, politically, culturally, and in many other ways. However, in this world-renowned place of dedication and learning, I have noticed a disturbing and destructive attitude in some members of my class.

I am utterly disappointed with the manner in which some freshmen behave in lectures. In some classes, I have noticed unruly, disruptive, and downright disrespectful behavior. I have heard freshmen mocking professors. Many noisily and cynically clap when a professor makes a mistake. Some throw paper airplanes while the lecturer has his back turned, and others try to impress the crowd of freshmen by pretending to start a "wave." With two minutes remaining in the class, the noise of freshmen filing away papers and snapping their binders open and shut overwhelms the lecture hall while the professor writes a few final but important equations on the blackboard. I have heard some disgusted students remark, "This is no different from high school," and even, "How did some of these people get into MIT?"

This disorderly conduct, which only a small percentage of freshmen have consistently exhibited, is extremely rude, selfish, and arrogant. For one, disruptions in class impede the ability of those who are concentrating on the lecture to understand the material presented. On a far more serious level, however, the disrespect of professors - indeed, of teachers at any level - is morally inexcusable. While MIT's freshmen have already made some impressive accomplishments in high school, none of us would be here without the guidance of our teachers. Every freshman who aspires to be successful and respected in his chosen field should, in turn, respect those men and women who have already distinguished themselves as leaders in their fields and, furthermore, who believe in the value and virtue of educating others.

I encourage all members of our class to be humble. While some of us might, one day, do great things, we have accomplished nothing earth-shattering in our first three weeks at the Institute. We should understand and practice respect towards our teachers and our fellow classmates. I urge our future class officers, whoever they will be, to stress the importance of respecting the educational process and to set positive examples in class.

Finally, I hope the vast majority of our class will be patient and persevere as they have done all through their lives.

Those who cynically deride professors and impede the learning of their classmates should change their ways. MIT is founded on the values of scholarship and dedication. My class should uphold those values. I therefore demand that those who disrespect the value and sanctity of learning reform, or leave MIT. Those who exhibit such a despicable attitude hardly deserve the privilege of membership in the Class of 1999.