The first day of class is always the most important. Forget the professor, the amount of books you need to buy and the hottie you are praying is in your discussion (Marketing 300, you know who you are). The subtlest of decisions you make when you walk through the lecture-hall doors will stay with you for the rest of the semester. I’m talking about where you sit. It can have ramifications far beyond the date of the final exam.
You walk into class and look for a familiar face to sit with. Many times this is a catch 22. You’ll make eye contact with someone you know and then, bam, they motion you to come over to sit with them. Often it’s a good friend, but on many occasions you’d rather sit with Scanner Dan than with this person.
Alas, you succumb to the social pressure and sit down. You sit there the entire class fretting about the obvious. You’ve now entered into a committed relationship. It’s the unwritten Eleventh Commandment that you have to sit with that person the next time you come to class. It’s a tricky situation. If you change seats, you better have a huge set of balls, because your now-divorced seating partner will know how you really feel. If you choose to be so bold and go it alone, where will you go? Everyone has already staked their seating claim like the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889.
I sleep easy every night knowing that when I look over to my right and up a row, I’ll see that guy in his Megadeth T-shirt, circa 1988. But seriously, why is it that I feel like I’m back in the fourth grade in Ms. Dickenson’s class with a seating chart?
For years I fought against the tyranny of the Stalin-esque seating arrangement. Inevitably I would get placed in the front of the class (too much talking) and next to the protective girl (you know the type) who would hit me every time I would chase her cute friend around the playground. If you tried to change seats back then, the teacher would yell at you. If you decide to move seats now, you’ll be stared down and hated worse than if people found out it was your idea to cancel “Jump Around.”
I’ve heard the whispers, too: “Who is this guy who thinks he can come over here and take our seats?” Excuse me, but I don’t see names on any of the seats, unless you count the variations of “Sarah is the Sellery slut” or “I hate New Jersey” permanently etched into the desks.
So what’s a student to do? You could stop going to class after the first lecture, which is what about a quarter of your fellow students do. You could try the above-mentioned tactic of changing seats. However, the consequences could be severe. The acquaintance you sat with the first day will feel dissed and probably start spreading rumors that you have herpes simplex-A. Or, worse yet, they’ll move with you.
Some of the other options are to come to class really late and find a seat in the back, pretending you don’t see the person frantically waving and name beckoning.
Since none of the options are particularly revolutionary, I suggest another course of action. Go to class, look the person in the eye, and sit somewhere else.
This will solve all dilemmas. The former, definitely former at this point, acquaintance will understand and will not feel compelled to sit next to you anymore. From this point forward, you will no longer have to endure the awkwardness that accompanies sitting with someone you don’t like.
But if you are really going to take a stand against the politics of seating, you must go all the way. If you want to stir things up more than the crazies condemning us all to hell on Library Mall, then sit in a different spot of the room each lecture. Place yourself in the seats that the really obnoxious girls sit in every class. And don’t stop there — next time, go for the seats in the back where the football players sleep … I mean sit. And then for kicks, if you feel so daring, displace the nerds in the front row. Like whoa.
This task is not for the faint of heart, but neither were the Vietnam protests, and you know the warm legacy they left at Wisconsin. So be an activist for a change, and take a seat.
Andrew Fein is a UW student.