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Op-Ed: Front Row Texters Should Be Compensated as Honorary Lecturers

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As a University, we can’t always rely on Penn to deliver good undergraduate teaching. Sometimes professors are just preoccupied with more pertinent matters, like research, advising, publishing, and extramarital affairs. What we can count on are the nearly competent students who are paid to fill these gaps (academically and bodily) as TA’s. Well I’m here to propose another paid opportunity that would spread the wealth and compensate students for keeping their classmates engaged.

This is an ode to the people who sit in the front row and use their computers for every purpose but notes. Your grades don’t depend on paying attention in class and they know it. I cannot state more emphatically how much more engaged I am by these students than by my professors. 

I couldn’t tell you how to find the gradient of a multivariate function, but thanks to the far more interesting presentation on my classmate’s Space Grey MacBook Pro, I know that some sophomore living in Rodin has a micropenis, halter tops are on sale on this elegant site that I must check out called Shein, and I could win $50 just by buying a cheap tub of tiger-themed protein powder at the price of $99.99. 

All of this information will stay with me; it’s the epitome of life-long knowledge taken away from a college education. Students should be paid for their consideration of their classmates’ wishes. It truly takes empathy, some might even say telepathy, for my classmates to have known that I cared whether they were going to spend $6 on a latte even though they’ve already maxed their credit cards twice this month, that their pee smelled like asparagus for a week, that they have to look through two hundred therapists to choose one, or that they’re scared of vaccines and almost cried in front of the whole clinic. Even when my mind wanders to the lecture in front of me, these students keep me reading with a quick and effective ding, as if to say, “Hey! You’re missing out on my roommate’s ‘LMAO’ or my OpenPass reminder.”

It takes talent to engage a class and they’re doing it better than these professors whose salaries and mistresses my tuition is actually going toward. I say it’s time that we give these esteemed students the credit they deserve as honorary lecturers, particularly as many suffer from a dearth of credit units when their professors fail them out of jealousy. Perhaps with incentive, they could teach professors to intentionally reveal their Grindr histories and takeout orders while lecturing about far less riveting topics like Oscar Wilde.