An Open Letter to Tutorial Ghosts

Maria Vint addresses your hungover, unmotivated self.

How the hell did we get to Week 5 already? The term is most definitely now in full swing. Home feels like a million miles away and Christmas, festivities, happiness and carefree days of sleeping until noon are well and truly over. My first essay is due this week. Wow.

With the new term have come some fantastically awkward new experiences. Well, I say “new,” but this was a problem last term too. And it seems to be an experience that is very common.

I refer to the awkward tutorial.

It can be bad. I legitimately have nearly emailed my tutors to apologise for what we all had to go through the previous afternoon. The silence is unbearable. The lack of discussion torturing and the lack of opinions eye-watering.

The bright-eyed, academic tutor is trying so hard, and nobody seems to be responding. I actually feel the need to try and remove myself from the room and pretend not to be there at all, just so I don’t have to be part of something so excruciatingly awkward. Then, finally, I mumble some extremely obvious point, just to break the silence. It’s a lot of pressure to have to feel like this at every question the tutor throws at us. This should be a group discussion!

Now, don’t try and blame the tutor. Most of the time they try their very best and are generally some very interesting and intelligent people. My complaint goes to the students that never say a word, scroll through Facebook on their laptop and completely remove themselves from what is an intimate academic setting. I just can’t believe how unbelievably rude you are.

I never expected this before coming to university. I struggle to comprehend how this behaviour can possibly come from a group of adults. You would expect this kind of thing from a sulky, fourteen-year old sitting at the back of the classroom, rebelling against the teacher through uncooperative silence; not people aged 18+ who have worked hard to be here and are supposed to be the future leaders in their field.

Fair enough, sometimes it can be difficult to launch into a full blown discussion on the downfalls of capitalism, or how we are going to solve the oil crisis or some other, equally broad and challenging deep question with a bunch of strangers. But at least say something. I know some people are shy, and at times you genuinely don’t have anything to say. I am by no means some sort of genius or annoying know-it-all; I recognise that sometimes you just need to listen for a bit before you can feel comfortable engaging.

This, however, is somewhat difficult when you are in a group that refuses to engage with each other at all.  I understand, perhaps this week was a bit hectic and you haven’t read as thoroughly as you would have liked to. Or quite simply you might have a whopper of a hangover. We’ve all been there.  But come on, tutorial ghosts, at least for the sake of your poor tutor’s self-confidence, grow up, do a bit of reading and contribute something to the group. After all, this is your education and you’re only cheating yourself.

Yours faithfully,

Maria Vint

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