The midterm, that mid-semester ritual celebrating the art of overcoming sleep-deprivation is upon us. All around us, students can be observed performing the rites of cramming, pulling an all-nighter and nervously breaking down. It’s a spectacle to behold, and one which varying class structures conspire to make last for more than a month.
The most peculiar change in behavior connected to the onset of these exams is the sudden rise in popularity of office hours. Generally our professors’ office hours are sparsely attended. Office hours are left unused by students who would benefit the most from them, save for a small dedicated slice of each class’s student body. It is only in dire times, such as midterm season or just before a major assignment is due, that they are used.
Going to office hours somehow fell into the subcategory of class supplements. It’s viewed as something helpful, but as it is optional, it is often ignored or forgotten. At its core, the underutilization of office hours is not an issue of laziness but because oftentimes they are not even considered.
Office hours would be more effective if they were by appointment only. Professors won’t waste their time sitting in an empty office. Also, students would be able to schedule an available time, instead of using the convenient excuse of schedule overlap. It would also allow more students to attend office hours.
With hundreds of students to deal with at one time, there is no way a professor in a class can give you any sort of personalized instruction, which can lead to a bit of culture shock to students accustomed to much smaller student-to-teacher ratios in high school.
These complaints fall a bit flat when considering the extreme lack of interest these same students seem to have in office hours, an opportunity for the most personal interaction possible with a teacher.
Though discussion sections help to alleviate that problem, they are not always effective.
From my experience, professors are more than willing to help a student with any questions he or she might have about the class. Who is better qualified than a professor to clarify any uncertainty relating to course material?
Many professors are baffled by this issue. Some are annoyed students are not taking advantage of the time they set aside, and others worry it is their fault. They sit alone in their offices with the doors open for a couple hours every week and wonder if their designated times conflict with their students’ schedules.
Then, when something is due, hoards of students they have never met complain about difficulties with class concepts. This cannot be the best use of available resources.
USC students do not take advantage of this valuable resource. It could be laziness, or it could be our busy schedules, but the root of the problem lies in a set belief of what successful study habits entail.
The university should encourage professors to remind students about office hours. They should bring it up every class until it finally enters the student body’s thinking. The best first step for getting students to start using the opportunity of office hours is to remind them that it is there in the first place.
Daniel Grzywacz is a sophomore majoring in cinematic arts-critical studies. His column “Thoughts From the Quad” runs Wednesdays.