The Question: Class or Brown Symposium?

Written by William Thomas

To cancel class or not to cancel class? That is the question. With another Brown Symposium past, this question seems to rest on the minds of students and teachers alike.

The Symposium is supposed to be an opportunity for renowned speakers in their respective fields to come to campus and present their views on some of the interesting and sometimes controversial issues of the day.

Whether it’s analyzing animal behavior or debunking the myths of science and religion, speakers at the Symposium offer all individuals present a new perspective on these exciting topics.

But let’s face the facts. Students at SU have the chance to receive this kind of eye-opening opportunity every day in their regular classes.

It’s easy to forget that the professors at SU are some of the brightest minds in their areas of interest, and that what they have to say can be just as enlightening even though their lectures are condensed to fifty minutes or a little more.

However, I said students have the opportunity to hear from their professors every day; unfortunately, students don’t always take that opportunity.

This same thinking seems to be applied to the Brown Symposium when professors decide whether or not to cancel class for the event.

After all, a student who won’t attend a regular class would never attend a special lecture when he or she could take the day off instead; at least that seems to be the train of thought. And so, some students start their weekend a couple days early while others have to attend class and miss the majority, if not all, of the Symposium.

The problem is, professors cannot distinguish between cancelling class for students and requiring attendance as usual.

The result is that some professors let their students out of class while others decide the Brown Symposium isn’t worth missing a class day.

Surely, this does not promote any kind of unity among the student body. To resolve this problem, the professors need to put the choice in the hands of the students.

Yes, it’s true that some students fail to take advantage of every opportunity while at SU, whether it is attending the Brown Symposium or just going to class every day whether or not professors require it.

Nevertheless, students should be allowed to choose to attend the Symposium or not.

If they decide to, then they choose to explore something new and broaden their field of knowledge; if not then they may miss out on a great opportunity. But it should still be their choice.

A lesson can be taken from this year’s Brown Symposium: Science and Religion, Conflict or Convergence?

What this writer took from the lectures was that no matter how much closer science or religion seems to be to explaining anything from something as small as why the grass grows to questions about existence, both science and religion can only accomplish so much on their own.

They are both needed to give humanity the fullest understanding of itself and the clearest picture of how human beings fit in with this world. It is through convergence, not conflict, that the greatest strides are made.

It can help for professors to take this perspective too. Their students are adults or at the very least forging their paths to adulthood. Professors should cancel class during the Brown Symposium because it gives their students another opportunity to make a choice.

No, a student will not always decide to take the step outside of his or her routine and learn a little more about the world.

But there is also the student who lives for opportunities like the chance to attend the Brown Symposium and maybe learn a little more about themselves. And perhaps, if professors take a step back and let their students make decisions like this on their own, those same students will come to realize how important these professors are in their lives.

Even though their professors might not be speaking in a large theater to hundreds of people, hopefully students will appreciate their professors all the more, not just for allowing students to choose who they want to become, but for showing up to class no matter how many students are there and sharing a small part of what makes them who they are.

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