Opinion: Getting a little bit extra



Mark Oprea

Mark Oprea

Mark Oprea is a junior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

At a very thought-provoking graduate student presentation last week, I asked a student standing hesitantly next to me what brought him to the lecture. In an assured response, he simply said, “I’m here for the bonus points.” Discarding any possibilities to chat about the speaker’s material, I stood silently and thought to myself: How many students are here solely for a small increase of their grades and not for the actual presentation?

Out-of-class events appear frequently at the university. It seems as though the majority of folks who attend hear about these events from their professors. I, myself, have had many allow me the opportunity to rack up a few additional points to my grade for simply attending speaker’s presentations. But should we students look at these unique events with just a letter grade in mind?

For example, Dr. Cynthia Ackrill, neuroscientist and president of WellSpark Leadership Development, spoke in February about the fascinating psychology of the self: how the inner desires in our minds affect the way we create and destroy habits. “Be kind to your frontal lobe” and take control of yourself to dispel distasteful habits, Ackrill pleaded to the crowd. In January, established civil rights activist Carlos Munoz Jr. spoke in light of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, rallying listeners to “go beyond [King’s] birthday” and “keep the nonviolent spirit alive” in our day and age.

This Thursday, Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel will be speaking to thousands of students about his life as a Holocaust survivor. Some students, such as myself, have the opportunity to use Wiesel’s presentation as a means of extra credit for a specific class. That’s completely fine. All I ask is that those taking such an advantage not let that thirst for percentage points be your principal means for attending this remarkable event.

But let me not limit these events to just notable speakers and lecturers. Many professors have advertised cultural, theatrical and musical events at the university and the city of Kent, often rewarded with class credit. The Italian operetta, international food fairs and folk festivals surely have enough merit to be worth something to professors. But what is it?

I’m pretty certain they do not have the overwhelming urge to grade additional piles of papers. However, I believe they are handing out points as an incentive for something they may not be able to provide in a typical lecture. These unique events are not just means to expound on class-related material, but sort of contain the material in itself.

The experiences of men like Munoz or Wiesel have something to teach on their own; academic knowledge is embodied in a living representative with a unique voice. One is not slouching through a dry lecture, but listening to a one-of-a-kind personality free from the formal structure of a class syllabus. Munoz can be seen having the “nonviolent spirit” of the long-deceased King; Wiesel is a direct link to the history of the Holocaust. One who sees these events as such will discover a different value in them rather than that of just class credit.

So grab a friend, or go alone, and get a little bit extra from your education.