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Classroom etiquette: important but often overlooked

Mills is known for being a liberal and open-minded community, one in which most actions are passed off as personal self expression and diversity of thought. However, sometimes that blasé attitude disrupts classes. The Campanil thought it time to begin discussing what is appropriate in class to keep it productive.

This is not about telling our peers how to behave. It is about respect: respect for our fellow students, our professors, and for Mills as an institution where learning should occur without interruption.

One of the main things that can impede learning is verbal distraction — whether it be students speaking amongst each other when the professor is lecturing, jumping in during discussions or continually interrupting the instructor to ask questions. Of course students are encouraged to ask questions, and most teachers at Mills will gladly answer them.

However, in lecture-based courses, the instructor needs to communicate a certain amount of information each class period. This means that asking too many questions can get the class behind schedule. If something doesn’t make sense right away, go to office hours. Same goes for asking questions relevant only to you: you’re wasting everyone’s time.

And if you’re sick, please stay home. It’s okay to have to sneeze or blow your nose in class once or twice, but constant sniffling and coughing can be distracting. You can borrow notes from a classmate or attend office hours to catch up on what you’ve missed, instead of potentially infecting other students.
Then there are matters a bit more trivial. Take food, for example. Most instructors allow food in class – and often a snack will help keep you alert if you’re unable to concentrate because you are hungry or sleepy. An aromatic take-out meal or a bag of chips, however, can be too much. Your food should not call attention to itself.

Another is choice of dress, or the lack thereof. Taking one’s shoes off during class is infinitely more comfortable – but is it worth your classmate’s visual — or sometimes olfactory — distraction? Class sessions are still formal interactions.

There are many other things that might annoy your classmates — from pencil-tapping to not preparing for class, to going to the bathroom right before the end of class. The main thing to remember is common courtesy. If what you’re doing is likely to disrupt anyone’s focus – wait until class is over.