After eight semesters at the UW, I’d like to think I’m an authority on a lot of things: where to get the best breakfast at noon on a Sunday, how to prevent — or at least lessen the severity of — hangovers, and when to get in line to exchange football tickets. As a fifth-year senior, I know I’m an authority on how to behave in a 400-person lecture.
Although lecture etiquette may seem pretty obvious, there are always a handful of people in every lecture that are knowingly inconsiderate or just plain clueless. And then there are freshman. So, while the semester is young, let’s get a few things straight, shall we?
Seat location is the cause of many breaches of lecture etiquette. The biggest problems lie in the extremes: people that arrive bright-eyed and ready to learn, 15 minutes early for lecture (great for you, by the way … let’s see how long that lasts) and those that waltz — or stumble — in 15 minutes after class has started.
Those that arrive to an empty lecture hall and choose to sit in the aisle seat are the cause of the majority of my personal frustration. With an aisle seat comes an inherent understanding: you will put your desk top away, move your bag, stand up, sit back down and pull your desk top out at least 10 times before lecture starts.
The problem occurs when said seat-occupier sighs, rolls eyes, stares blankly without bothering to move, or all of the above, when someone who doesn’t arrive at the lecture hall at the crack of dawn wants to sit farther down the aisle. This person is bound to get their books, bag, toes, etc., stepped on by people like me (oops, sorry).
The polar opposite of this person is the one who walks in halfway through the lecture. There is nothing bad with this in and of itself, so long as you attempt to be quiet, sit in an easily accessible seat and aren’t carrying a bag full of Chinese food from A-8.
The problem lies in the people who attempt to climb to the dead center of the lecture hall, making half of the aisle stand up and let his/her highness pass. Tip: a well-placed foot can turn a frustrating moment into the most entertaining few minutes of the hour.
Hygiene problems are less common but more disturbing breaches of lecture etiquette. First of all, a little refresher from high-school health class: Deodorant helps prevent and mask body odor. Unfortunately, there are some people who, while accepted into UW, apparently failed this class.
If you’ve got something against deodorant, that’s okay. I’m an open-minded person, as are many other students. All I ask in this situation is that you shower on days you have class, or, at the very least, not sit in the middle of the lecture hall where the scent radius is the largest.
A couple other quick hygiene no-nos: don’t clip your fingernails, cuticles or (gross) toenails; don’t stick a wad of chewing tobacco in your lip before class and then proceed to spit nasty brown juice into a cup for the next 50 minutes; don’t pick your nose even if you think nobody is watching; don’t eat anything messy. Believe it or not, I’ve witnessed all of these things happening in lectures. Don’t do it.
Last on the list of the major breeches of lecture etiquette is noise. Admittedly, sometimes you need to talk during a lecture, whether it’s to comment on the professor’s pit stains or the hot guy sitting two rows in front of you. This is sort of a gray area, but if you can save it for after lecture, save it; if you can write or text it during lecture, that’s even better.
Mute or set to vibrate all cell phones, PDAs and computers. Forgetting every once in awhile is fine — it happens to everyone — but ignoring your cell phone when it rings and trying to pretend that the La Cucaracha piercing the lecture hall is not coming from your bag is inexcusable.
So if you’re an aisle-sitting early arriver, an aisle-climbing late arriver, a tobacco chewer, a nail-clipper, a nose-picker, a talker, a freshman or any of the other etiquette breachers, I urge you to heed the advice of an elder.
If you’re a person who suffers from the inconsiderate and clueless, I urge you to take this article, wad it up, and throw it at any offender within range.
Laura Rego ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in marketing and management. She is the former Advertising Director of the Badger Herald.