Opinion: Colleges treat students like children

College is presented as a time of freedom and exploration while discovering life as an adult. Students, however, are not as free to adulthood as they may believe.

One of the most common phrases I hear from professors at the start of every semester is that we are all adults in their class. As a long time practitioner of being an adult, I was relieved to hear that in some of my first classes. As time went on however, I began to realize how hollow that statement is. There are many habits and policies at the university that contrast to adult life. They are found in attendance policies, dorm closures and even restroom break policies.

The attendance policy is the largest piece of evidence against the university believing students are adults. The policy enforces penalties against a students grade if they miss more than ten percent of a class. This includes both unexcused and excused absences. While some teachers are lenient on this policy, its existence alone is enough to prove what the university thinks about students: They can not be trusted to come to class without proper motivation. 

Now I am a big supporter of going to every class. After all, I paid for them and they are an effective study tool for me. As a paying adult, however, I should not be required to go and my grade should not suffer if I choose to stay home. Of course, I’ve heard the argument that in the real world if I don’t go to work then I will suffer the consequences but not going to class already has a consequence: I won’t be getting the material presented directly to me. Additionally, there is a huge difference between work and school. I get paid to work but I am paying to go to school.

Another service that many students pay for at some point is dorm rooms. Considering the costs to live in a residence hall – the cramped conditions and the fact that it is required for freshman – it is insulting that they close down over holiday breaks. Doing this tells me that the university doesn’t believe students can take care of themselves, like functioning adults, without staff here. An adult can in fact easily survive in a residence hall room over break.

Services on campus, such as dining halls, may shut down over break but there are multiple grocery stores within walking distance of campus and residence halls come equipped with public kitchen areas and university-approved microwaves. If keeping equipment such as heating and cooling systems operating is a concern, it costs very little to keep a technician on call for emergencies. With the rates the school charges for a dorm room, they should be more than capable of keeping it open. As a quick reference, a cramped dorm room can cost about a thousand dollars a semester. This is a place where you are limited in space and personal appliances. A two bedroom, one bath house mortgage can be found for about $250 a month.

It's not always the big things that prove to students what the college’s opinion of their adulthood is. Little rules here and there add up to send a message. When I get at least one teacher a semester who tells me I need to speak up to use the restroom, I feel the university is labeling me as a child. While working in this so-called “real world” the university is preparing students for, the only time I needed permission to use the restroom was select instances in the military.

Other than then, no matter what job I had, I could go as I pleased without any questions. Even sitting in a scheduled training — the closest thing there is at the workplace to going to school — my supervisor would not bat an eye if someone needed to excuse themselves for a moment. Moreover, they didn’t want to talk about it to begin with. It is your business and some people may not want to announce to the entire class what they need to do. As the Carolina Creed says, “I will respect the dignity of all persons.”

While it is impossible to cover everything that makes people feel like they are being treated like a child when told they are not, these are some of the issues that matter to me. It is wrong to put students under a false sense as to what being an adult encompasses. If the university thinks that students are children, that is fine, but tell us we are children. However, if we are believed to be adults then treat us as such.


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