Friday, March 17, 2006

Courtesy

Good Evening,

After a hectic week that is unlikely to end for another 7 days, I find my brain unable to do anything more useful than write a blog, I fear that I'm temporarily school-worked out. . . I have spent most of this week tackling a stack of maps and autocad files, attempting to glean data out of them in a useful form. The process has been slow and frustrating, and I owing to the need for specialized software (like ArcView and AutoCad) I was forced to work in University computer labs.

You might think that these labs - free of distractions like Boggle and online Canasta and Snood and links to all my favorite websites and MSN - might be great places to work. This would be true if it weren't the large number of people using the labs with an utter lack of courtesy for their fellow students.

The university doesn't actually have a quiet space policy in their labs, nor do they enforce their restrictions on gaming, chatting and eating. The result is that it is frequently next to impossible to get any work done in the labs unless you are lucky or willing to be there late at night. I'm not suggesting it is necessary to designate school computer labs as silent zones, most people can tolerate the noise made by people sitting next to each other chatting quietly or intermittantly consulting with each other on a project, however, few people can work when a loud boister conversation is continuing for several hours. One incident, in the AutoCad lab, involved 3 engineering students playing poker and jesting (sometimes in a less than polite manner) for about 2 hours. This makes me sound like a bit of a spoil sport or suck. I wasn't really offended by the content of their comments, I only noted that it wasn't really appropriate because other people may have found their remarks offensive. I was more distressed by the volume of their voices and distracting behavior which made in next to impossible for me to concentrate on my already frustrating assignment.

Unforetunately, events like this one are not at all unique. Those gentlemen were the most eccessively discourtesious folks I had the misfortune to share a lab with, but I encountered this situation repeatedly throughout my stay here. Some people simply aren't aware of the volume of their voice - in my case I have to conciously think in order to be heard at times - and some people don't care. It would be unfortunate if the university had to make a strict policy on behavior in labs and a pain to enforce it, however, for those students who don't have access to their own computers or special software, a lack of reasonably quiet workspaces is a real problem. This situation also differs markedly from my experience using the computer labs at Lakehead. I think part of the explanation is computers have become more and more oriented towards entertainment, and computer access is not longer seen as a privledge owing to the fact that nearly everyone has one. Lakehead also had a quiet policy, which I never saw being enforced, but worked nonetheless.

Certainly, the behavior of those gentlemen would not be accepted in a library, restaurant or a coffee shop. It may have been passable at a party or a bar. It certainly showed a lack of courtesy for the 15-20 other students using that lab that afternoon. Another question one might ask is: why not one of use asked the guys to quiet down? They were kind of intimidating - their behaviour made it clear that their reaction to such a request would likely be unpleasent. Myself, I was busy being frustrated, and simply didn't have the energy to fight another battle. I find in general, people don't assert their right to courtesy. Even proffessors - they rarely will speak out when a couple of students are chatting or being disruptive while they are teaching. I, on the other hand, have frequently given students in my vicentity the teacher look or asked them to stop talking when their was an opportunity. Even in a classroom situation the reaction of those students to my polite request to stop talking was suprisingly negative. I really don't think people take courtesy that seriously any more and unfortunately, it only takes 1 misbehaving student to interfere with the learning environment of the rest and I suppose if the proffessors appear to tolerate, why should they listen to thier fellow students?

So, there is my rant. I think the school could easily improve the learning environment on campus by educating people to the impact of their behavior on others. I think, in the labs anyways, a few posters reminding people that the labs are a workspace first and entertainment 2nd would at least help with the folks that weren't aware that their behavior might make it hard for others to study. In classrooms, Profs should assert their right to a courteous audience and protect the quality of the learning environment for all of their students. As for the rest, well, I suppose human's do worse things to each other than discourtesy - no easy solution there.

Good night,

Jennith. Posted by Picasa

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