Student Empowerment in the Age of COVID

Today’s True Fact:  The University System of Georgia has not mandated the wearing of masks in classrooms (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 27th online).  

This is bad news for Professor Wendell McGlebben, who teaches a course on Faulkner and the Novel at the University of Georgia in Athens, but good news for his students, who are now flexing their negotiation biceps.

On the first day of class this semester, they presented McGlebben with a written list of demands that included the following:

— Eliminate the final exam

— Replace the required reading list of “The Sound and the Fury,” “As I Lay Dying,” and “Absalom, Absalom!” with “The Bridges of Madison County” (abridged version) and “To Kill a Mockingbird” (the movie)

—  Reduce the number of “reflection papers” from 8 to 2, and the length of these papers from 2 pages to 1 slogan, proverb, or aphorism

—  Award extra credit for attending class, and double-extra-credit for not texting during class

In exchange, the students promised that they would wear masks whenever they decided to come to class.

According to student representative Hanson “Skeeter” Blovell, a junior English major, “we all knew that we had some leverage going into this course.  Professor McGlebben is 78 years old and is missing a lung due to a botched emergency appendectomy at the Marietta Urgent Care Center in 2019.  He coughs a lot, and both his wife and his cat “Raspy” have severe asthma.  Need I say more?”

The professor agreed to the students’ terms, telling reporters that “a part of me has to admire the little bastards.  They saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.  I just hope our Bulldogs football team can do the same on the gridiron this fall.  And I’ll be honest: Faulkner bores the crap out of me.  Five pages in, and I’m nodding off.  The man is weird.”