How to not piss off your professors at Cal State Fullerton

It might seem like common sense for students to not text during class — or at least not make it obvious — but it’s a lesson communications professor Davis Barber said he’s had to teach multiple times since he started lecturing at Cal State Fullerton during the fall 2000 semester.

“The big asshole thing I did once is that somebody was on their phone right in front of me so I said ‘Look, I hope you’re doing that to drop the class because you should.’ And he never showed up again, so that worked,” Barber said.

Some students might think their professors can’t tell what they’re doing, but engineering professor Shahin Ghazan Shahi, Ph.D., says they should think again.

“Especially when they’re texting and looking through their phones, sometimes they have a smile,” Shahi said. “(When) I am teaching and they’re texting of course it’s kind of insulting.”

Multiple CSUF professors said texting during class was one of the quickest ways to get on their bad side, but it isn’t the only irritant new and returning CSUF students should be aware of. Professors cautioned students against talking to their desk neighbors, complaining about a topic being covered, making bad excuses for why they’re petitioning for a class instead of just adding it or proving they weren’t paying attention by asking the same question another student just asked.

“The frustrating part of that is some students already knew what I said, and then they would get frustrated. You don’t need reasons to lose their attention,” said Henry Mendoza, who taught classes in the communications department for 11 years.

John Ibson, Ph.D., professor emeritus of American studies, has been teaching at CSUF since the school gave him his “first adult job” in 1972. He said students texting during class is “insulting,” but he also learned not to be bothered by distracting student behavior early on in his long career.

Ibson said one of his first courses as an instructor at CSUF featured students bringing their bandana-adorned dogs to class or smoking marijuana in the back of the room (smoking was permitted indoors at the time). Ibson said he asked the department chair if he should do anything about the latter students. The chair’s response was to ask Ibson whether or not the students were disrupting anyone.

“I said ‘They’re smoking marijuana, of course they’re not being disruptive. They’re just smiling a lot.’ And so I figured, they’re not bothering anybody, whatever,” Ibson said.

One thing Ibson does let bother him though — and that Shahi also singled out as a cardinal offense — was any form of academic dishonesty. Like texting, this might seem like an obvious no-no, but common sense isn’t always common for some college students.

“It’s unfair to me. I don’t cheat. I don’t cut corners. It’s certainly unfair to your fellow students,” Ibson said.

It’s also easier to catch now more than ever with access to websites like Turnitin and Google. However, Ibson said it wasn’t always hard before that either, recalling a time when a student turned in a plagiarized version of an article he’d already read.

“I was like ‘You idiot, you didn’t even do this cleverly,'” Ibson said.

And when students do cite sources and links to research rather than steal content, they should make sure they’re referencing reputable outlets (i.e. not Wikipedia).

“I’ve had a lot of students go through the semester, and I was surprised as they came in at what they were using as a reliable source,” Mendoza said. “The ones that were already using what I would consider reliable sources really had a head start.”

Despite all these potential pitfalls, all of the professors interviewed made it sound fairly easy to get on their good side. They recommended students to do simple things like showing they’re listening by asking good questions, going to their professors’ office hours, turning off their phones in class, reading the syllabus so they know what’s coming and going to class regularly while at least feigning interest.

Oh, and not texting in class.

“I think sometimes some students don’t realize they are being seen, or they don’t realize their behavior is insulting,” Ibson said. “It’s not a smart thing to insult the teacher. It’s just really not, that’s hardly a subversive idea.”

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