Two minutes late to class

“A Black college professor called the police on two Black students for arriving to class late at Perimeter College at Georgia State University, prompting outrage from the students’ peers on TikTok,” NBC News reported here.

When I began reading this story, I immediately suspected that isn’t accurate.

I was right. A few paragraphs down, the reporter said “they … refused to leave.” The professor then “left the room and returned with two armed police officers.” In other words, the cops weren’t summoned because they were late to class, but because they became disruptive when the instructor told them to leave.

I went to college a long time ago. Back then, 18-year-old high school graduates were seen as raw material to be shaped by higher education into future managers, engineers, scientists, doctors, and lawyers. Before they can be any of those things, they have to become adults first.

So, many of my professors saw their job as more than just teaching the course material; it included turning us into adults. Some strictly enforced an “arrive on time” rule: If you were late to class you didn’t get in. Nearly all had strict deadlines for turning in papers.

In general, college is serious business: No more goofing off. But there also are sound practical reasons. Let’s take Professor A, for example. He has only 50 minutes to cover a lot of material, so he wants to start on time, and doesn’t want interruptions. But beyond that, he’s also trying to prepare his students for the world of work by teaching them, among other things, to arrive on time. 

This sounds pretty basic, but a lot of students fresh out of high school arrive on campus needing to be drilled on the essential skill of arriving on time. If you don’t arrive to sales appointments on time, you won’t have customers; if you’re perpetually late to company meetings, you won’t have a job. It’s better to straighten out students with this bad habit before sending them out into the work world. Some professors see that as part of their job as educators. Good for them.

And good for the professor who called the cops on the two students who refused to leave. If this isn’t straightened out at this stage of their training, chances are it never will be, and they’ll go out into society as people who don’t follow rules.

Their excuse for refusing to leave is they “paid to be here.” No, they paid tuition to get an education, and this is part of their education. That professor did them a bigger favor than they yet realize.

I remember getting ejected from an economics class for whispering to another student after the bell signaled the start of class. I had to go to the professor’s office, apologize, promise never to do it again, and get permission to return.

He was one of the best professors I ever had. I learned a lot from him, not least a valuable life lesson. And I thank him for it.

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