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Free Points or Free Will?

By Payton Schwesinger

We all know the feeling. You’ve rolled out of bed on Monday of Week 1 regretting every life decision that placed you at UCLA. Twenty minutes later, after inadvertently telling multiple people on Bruinwalk that you don’t love children or believe in curing cancer, you slide into the back of your first class blurry-eyed, panting, and proud of yourself for bringing a pencil. Then, up on the board appear these dreaded words:


Many of us entered college believing that living on your own for the first time meant the right to make some decisions for yourself. For the most part, that has proven true. You can down eight White Claws (or, if you still have a shred of self-respect, eight beers) and run a mile in your underwear six hours before an 8am final. You’re free to eat De Neve chicken tendies until your baggiest, “I’m-never-going-to-get-laid” sweatpants no longer fit. You can leisurely J-walk across the street while you stare down disgruntled drivers with “run me over and you’ll pay my tuition” written all over your face.

On a more serious note, you are also responsible for enrolling in your own courses. This is made unnecessarily difficult by UCLA’s inability to deduce that if 700 students want to take a class, it might be useful to open up more than 17 spots. Apartment hunting is an entirely different story. Don’t worry! It’s freeing once you accept that you could literally sell your spleen for $508 on the black market and still come up short for rent in an apartment where you can flip your eggs from the toilet. Can you say efficiency?!

Stressed? Don’t panic – just be sure to give CAPS a 5-7 week heads-up about your impending mental breakdown and they will be more than happy to assist you!

All in all, these hefty expectations for a UCLA student seem to presume that we are semi-intelligent, mostly competent individuals who can make our own decisions. These assumptions become tragically obsolete when mandatory attendance makes an appearance. If nothing else, it’s a slap in the face to every high school teacher who has stood in front of a room filled with horny sixteen year olds, chirping “Your college professors won’t baby you like that!”

I have personally found that mindlessly answering clicker questions for two hours on material I could have taught myself in twenty-three minutes does not put me in a particularly good mood, but for the professor, it’s a win win. Enforcing mandatory attendance allows them to monopolize three to six hours of a student’s time every week while they get paid to read off a powerpoint slide that hasn’t been updated since Kim Kardashian had her original butt.

Here’s the thing: we are adults. We can drive to the store and pick up enough alcohol to make the Great Gatsby blush. We can buy a gun and go to war. We can vote (welcome, “medicinal” marijuana). We fight for our own classes, find our own housing, make our own friends, and jumpstart our own careers. In light of all that, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that we are perfectly capable of deciding if we need to sit in a lecture hall and listen to a thirty-something year old math professor – who thinks that plaid shorts and New Balance tennis shoes are a good look – in order to pass a class.

If the class is useful to their learning, students will come. If it’s not, then perhaps instead of forcing them to physically show up while they mentally check out, the focus should be on improving the way the material is taught. For $35,000 a year (my sincerest apologies to those who live out of state – your price tag was too large to print) and for the top public university in the country, that isn’t too much to expect.

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