Growing up in the suburbs, I dreamed of attending a university in a city where there were always exciting events to attend. I hoped that my college experience would involve seeing innovative new productions of Shakespeare’s plays, listening to award-winning authors talk about their works and conducting research at places like the Newseum. Luckily, I have been able to do all of these things because my professors required us to attend for class. But these events came at a price.
Most of my classes in the English, communication and history departments make attending outside events a significant component of a student’s final grade. In my experience, attending events typically counts for 15 to 20 percent of the total points in a class. Sometimes these events are free, but there have been semesters when I have taken multiple courses that mandated attendance at ticketed events. The costs vary, but I have attended events with tickets that cost between $15 and $25. When assignments popped up, I had the means to pay for required events, but these added costs come as a challenging surprise for some students.
Professors should incorporate outside events into their courses when possible so students can take advantage of being in the nation’s capital, but they must consider the financial burden it can be for some students. Spending $20 to go to a reading or listen to a speaker may not seem like a lot to ask, but students who do not have a budget to spend on anything beyond necessities are left in a difficult situation. Professors need to make sure that they are making required events as accessible as possible so students are not forced to choose between letting their final grade take a hit and doling out money they need for food or laundry.
One of the most basic ways that professors can provide enriching experiences for their students while respecting their budget is to be upfront with costs at the beginning of the semester. Although required events are often listed in the syllabus, I have never seen a professor include the cost of required events. Communicating this information in the syllabus or early in the semester would allow students to decide if they are able to pay for an external event and give them time to drop the course if they cannot.
I had one professor who arranged an agreement with the Shakespeare Theatre Company to create a special discount code that our class could use to attend a modern production of “Romeo and Juliet.” Many ticketed venues around D.C. like the Newseum and the Kennedy Center provide discounted tickets for students. But if professors want to require an event at a venue that does not, they should either work with the company to secure a more affordable deal for their students or find another event that does not require students to pay full price.
Professors should incorporate events around the city into their courses for students like me who grew up in the suburbs and dreamt of experiencing city life as part of their classes. GW’s location is one of its best assets and professors should do everything they can to utilize D.C.’s resources to provide a better class experience. But in encouraging students to take full advantage of the city, professors also need to do their part to make external events financially viable for students of all economic backgrounds.
Natalie Prieb, a junior majoring in English and creative writing, is a Hatchet columnist.
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