December 15, 2015

Students with NSU Syndrome

It is an illness which I hear complained of often from professor friends of mine, and which I have (on occasion) experienced myself. The problem in this instance is not student lack of learning, or lack of intelligence; rather, the disease seems to infect the frontal lobe, manifesting in lack of desire or will. The hope is that this blog post will help professors to sympathize with those afflicted and learn, thereby, to increase the satisfaction for all involved.

I speak here of the various symptoms encompassed by the diagnosis: "not showing up" or NSU.

NSU makes its appearance in several ways.

First, students afflicted with NSU cannot, under any circumstance, turn in an assignment on time. If told at the beginning of the Fall semester that, "Friday, December 18, 2015 at 5:30 PM is the absolute deadline," then such students will be seen at 6:30, attempting to slide the paper under the professor's door. Often, students afflicted with NSU offer no excuses, while others offer feeble ones relating to car trouble or animal consumption of homework. If asked why the student did not then email the paper with an explanation, there is no answer. If given a "break" early in the semester, and permitted a late paper with a warning, then the next paper will be late as well, with concomitant lack of, or weak, excuse. These students seem rather blindsided by the idea that anyone would hold them to a standard of behavior and classroom performance.

Second, the more serious affliction of NSU results in high absences from class and complete lack of assignment completion. This is usually combined with stunned looks or slackjaw (not related to lockjaw, but producing similar effects) upon being informed that they have been administratively withdrawn from the class, or have failed for lack of attendance and / or lack of completion. For the slightly more motivated, angry letters, emails, or phone calls from the students or (as likely) the students' parents may ensue.

However, that NSU is a disease, and nearly uncurable, cannot be doubted. Many of these students are of more than capable intelligence, and not all come from disadvantaged backgrounds, but cannot function with NSU despite those advantages. Professors must encourage other professors to be aware of this disease, and to pass such students along without demanding much of them, preferably making the student believe that the student has somehow "passed" the class despite lack of any real work or learning. This has the added advantage of saving the professor a great deal of useless attempts at meeting student learning outcomes, giving the professor quite a high classroom ranking, and preventing the need to collect and grade (or even distribute) classroom work or homework.

Should the professor feel the need to do something in class to justify a salary, s/he may engage in superficial discussion of social justice issues, preferably leaning leftward, for which the professor will find a ready and willing sponge in the NSU-ite, eager to parrot the professor. If any student dissents, the professor should take that student aside and encourage the student to similarly tread lightly around the poor NSU-afflicted, creating an atmosphere of comradeship that will buoy all student satisfaction and maintain an environment encouraging for all to participate and experience emotional fulfillment.

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