How To Behave at a Lecture

by Erica Sanderson, , March 18, 2009

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All students have been to at least one lecture during their college career. To clarify, I don't mean a lecture class; I am referring to a guest speaker lecture, an event sponsored by an organization on campus. Having been to dozens of them, I have found myself becoming increasingly angry every time I attend one. Where does this anger stem from, you wonder? Well, it comes from the blatant disregard of common courtesy displayed by students. Though I feel it is ridiculous to have to directly tell students how to behave at one of these events, I have no choice due to the heinous actions of the student body. So, take notes, because here are the do's and don'ts of how to behave at a lecture.

1. BE QUIET AND DON'T TALK. This should be obvious, but I can't tell you the number of times I have been trying to take notes at a lecture and a someone talks incessantly throughout the entire presentation. Students whisper (loudly) to their friends or laugh, when it is supposed to be silent for people to hear and show the guest respect. Not only is it extremely rude, but it is annoying for those who are actually trying to pay attention and focus. So, do everyone a favor and shut up.

2. TURN YOUR PHONE ON SILENT OR VIBRATE. There is nothing worse than having an intense, serious moment of conversation during the lecture being interrupted by a loud, obnoxious ringtone of "I Kissed a Girl" come blasting on, ringing throughout the room for all to hear. It's embarrassing for you, irritating for the rest of us, and creates a complete halt in the presentation while you dig through your bag for five minutes trying to find out where the hell the sound is coming from. Now the sound is ringing in our heads still and the speaker has lost track of their thought.

3. DON'T TEXT. The speaker can see you texting you know. The electronic gadget plastered into your hands is visible to the naked eye. Everyone can see your fingers flying rapidly across the keyboard in synchronized motion; your head slumped in a transfixed gaze at the colorful screen. It's a direct insult to the speaker(s) and the organization that sponsored the event, because it is an apparent showcase of the fact that you a) don't care, b) aren't listening at all and c) won't even pretend like you care. What can possibly be so important that you can't keep your phone untouched for one hour? I went to a lecture once where almost the entire audience had their phones spread out in front of them, typing away while a panel talked; it was downright appalling. I know, sometimes people get bored at lectures, particularly since students now-a-days have the mind span of a two-year-old, so they turn to texting as a form of silent entertainment. But please, try to contain your texting addiction for an hour or two. If you are that desperate for a mental escape, doodle on your paper or go to a happy place in your thoughts. Just don't resort to an outlet that makes it physically noticeable that you don't care.

4. STAY FOR THE ENTIRETY OF THE LECTURE. Let's be honest, most students only go to speakers because they either have to for a class or need the extra credit points. Since you're already at the lecture, you should at least stay until the main part of the presentation is over and then leave before the Q&A portion if you really want to. Don't just leave once you get your paper signed or sign your name on the class attendance sheet. The speaker(s) has dedicated their time and energy for you and your professor obviously thought it was important enough to have you go, so the least you can do is show some respect and stay the whole time. Don't half-ass it so you leave after the first twenty minutes, when you think you've grasped enough of the message to BS your way through the one page summary or quiz on the presentation.

5. LEAVE QUIETLY. If you have to leave for some necessary reason, like a mandatory prior commitment or you feel you might puke, do it quietly without causing a disturbance to others. Students leave so loudly, banging seats and chairs, stomping feet, talking and slapping their bags and books. The proper way to leave is to quietly and slowly get your things together, walk out without saying a word, and slowly close the door behind you; don't slam it. If you know in advance that you will be leaving early, the right thing to do is to sit towards the back, in an aisle seat so you can easily leave without forcing others to get up and without everyone noticing, especially the lecturer.

These are simple rules that shouldn't even have to be said. These speakers have taken their personal time, effort and energy to come and talk to us at Cortland. They are a guest here on campus and it is rude, disrespectful and an embarrassment to the university if you don't behave in the best manner. It hurts the reputation of our college when students behave otherwise. C'mon guys, this is college; behave like adults. Don't make me tell you twice.

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