8 Things Your Prof Cares (or Doesn't Care) About in Class

With the recent huff over college students not learning a darn thing (45% Of Students Don't Learn Much In College), I figured it was time to offer what goes on in the mind of a college professor. This is what I care about and don't care about in class:

1. DON'T CARE if your cell phone goes off, as long as I get to answer it. These days, I'm having trouble distinguishing incoming calls from texts. Droid!

2. DO CARE when you distract other students. This coming from someone who as a college freshman once launched a mini toy helicopter which circled the classroom and soft crashed on his professor's head. I was surprised and relieved that the professor didn't get all Cornell prof on me.

3. DON'T CARE if you text or surf the web in class (except during exams). Show me that you are a multi-tasker, especially if I have nothing relevant or funny to offer.

4. DO CARE that you view writing as a craft (not as a "spell check" exercise). True story: In a legal document, an attorney asked the judge for a delay in his case because he was undergoing a delicate medical procedure on his back: Disk surgery. However, he mistakenly typed a different four letter word that looked like DISK, inserting an unfortunate "C" rather than the needed "S." Spell check won't catch that!

5. DON'T CARE if you make fun of my New York accent. My contracts class still doesn't know if I was referring to a pawn shop or a porn shop.

6. DO CARE that you take critical thinking exercises seriously. It's more important for you to think your way out of a legal dilemma than to remember that incorporeal hereditament is an inchoate or intangible right.

7. DON'T CARE if you walk in late or fall asleep in class. I will always give you the benefit of the doubt when you show up -- that you got stuck in traffic or just pulled a graveyard shift at work.

8. DO CARE that you get the job done. Just like in the real world, showing up for exams and meeting deadlines are critical -- except in emergency situations, detailed in the exam question below.

Finally, your professors really do care that you studied something meaningful in college. Years from now, hopefully you'll be able to look back fondly on a time when our expectation was for you to laugh hard and learn a lot.


This morning on the way to our exam, Marcel purchased coffee at the drive-through window of a local burger establishment. With the car stopped, he placed the cup between his knees and opened the lid to add cream. Accidentally, he knocked the contents of the cup onto his lap, and hot coffee soaked through his sweat pants. He screamed: "Help me, I'm burning, and I've got a test in 20 minutes!" After completing his exam, Marcel headed straight to the hospital, where doctors treated his third degree burns. He then sued the burger joint for failing to warn him that extremely hot coffee can rip through flesh. A jury awarded Marcel $100,000 in compensatory damages, but also found him to be 75% responsible and the defendant 25% responsible for the accident. How much money would Marcel be permitted to recover if the defendant does not appeal this verdict?
a. $100,000
b. $75,000
c. $25,000
d. $0

ANSWER: If you chose letter "c," then you understand the legal concept of comparative
negligence. In most states, a plaintiff's award is reduced by the percentage of fault assigned by the jury for an accident. However, in my state, if a plaintiff is found to be 50% or more responsible, then that plaintiff would recover nothing from the $100,000 verdict. Thus, the correct response would be letter "d." Tricky, but this question highlights the importance of knowing your state laws.

Perry Binder is a legal studies professor who blogs about teaching and humor at Crazy Classroom. Follow Perry's tweets @Perry_Binder.