“Grow up, go to class and take personal responsibility”

Allison Dumka

In the last weeks of class, I’ve observed a curious phenomenon: It appears a large segment of campus does not want to take responsibility … for anything. I hear diatribes of hatred toward the most considerate of professors. Students are incredibly vocal about the intense burden they bear. Poor, poor students.

A majority of students turn papers in on time, attend office hours and generally accept the obvious fact they are students. Maybe it’s the whiners in my classes that ruin your reputation, you responsible majority.

Unfortunately, many students do not appreciate the fact that they attend college, even though university is a privilege. University tuition, regardless of the school, is too expensive for most Americans, and only 6 percent of low-income high school students will finish college by age 24. Fifty-one percent of upper-middle-class students will, according to USA Today.

Students are, essentially, economically privileged enough to be able to whine.

However, I understand that college complaints (hard classes) are derived from this truth: Responsibility is not good for its own sake. Knowledge, philosophers argue, is good in and of itself because it improves the brain’s ability to distinguish information and appreciate culture (in theory).

While we do gain knowledge during our college years, responsibility mostly comprises our fear of negative repercussions – not that we just love being responsible. For example, I check my e-mail twice per day. I don’t love checking e-mail, but if I don’t, people I’ve committed to won’t be happy.

So, I can relate to a defiant stance on responsibility. I even disagree with the abuse of the word “”responsibility.””

Conservatives use the phrase “”personal responsibility”” to explain why the federal government shouldn’t take any.

“”Personal responsibility”” excuses the government’s refusal to educate kids about safe sex, to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies (for both of which the U.S. has the highest rates in the industrialized world).

Conservatives use this phrase to excuse the effects of institutionalized racism (via policy pre-1964 and the Voting Rights Act) and to blame individuals for not voting (although disenfranchisement of felons who have served their sentences equates to disqualifying 13 percent of black males from ever exercising their right to vote). Whew.

These are government-created policies. But if individuals don’t have control over their circumstances, they cannot be blamed for the results.

Students, however, are a completely different story – we aren’t exactly oppressed with the heavy burden of education (in contrast with, say, the burden of unwanted teen pregnancy.)

We have agency in our academic decisions. Students choose to sign up for certain classes. We select our own majors. We pick from departments, professors and general-education courses. We absolutely choose to cash in on the privilege of being a student – simply by being one. We have control over our lives at this point, so we should be held accountable for our decisions.

I have theories on why we’re so prone to reject responsibility. First, we know responsibility isn’t full of joy and inherent value. It’s full of papers and exams. Second, many students are not used to being held responsible for their actions; freshmen are much more likely to be found cheating or plagiarizing, according to the Dean of Students Office.

But students are lucky to be here in the first place. Being academically irresponsible (cheating, whining, blaming instructors) is just unacceptable, not to mention immature. Professors distribute syllabi at the beginning of every class, clearly outlining their expectations. The UA’s “”drop”” period is 20 business days long. Students make themselves look like imbeciles when they complain about these clearly defined guidelines.

Take some personal responsibility for your economic privilege; it enabled you to pay tuition and take those challenging classes. So suck it up, go to class and don’t cheat. I know that papers and lectures are long, but being unappreciative just makes the whole thing feel longer. I suppose it’s a hard world out there when you’re academically privileged – poor, poor students.

Allison Dumka is a political science senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu