The UMBC campus was shaken recently by the realization that sometimes professors just do not care that much. The stunning news came on a day like any other: junior psychology major Ursula Germick was answering emails when she remembered she had to send a very important message to one of her professors, Paul von Schmutz.
Germick needed to tell von Schmutz that she would be missing Friday’s lecture to travel to Arkansas for her sister’s wedding and to ask if she could email him the weekly homework assignment that is usually submitted in class. The email took Germick 57 minutes to write, but to her astonishment, von Schmutz replied in only three. His email read, in full, “yeah tha’ts [sic] fine. I don’t really care. Sent from my iPhone.”
Germick was dumbfounded. “I couldn’t believe he would say something like that,” Germick said, tightly clutching her phone, still open to that fateful email, in her hand. “You go through college thinking professors are monitoring your every move, thought and action. But in reality, th-they…” She stuttered for a moment longer, but was ultimately unable to finish the sentence.
Germick’s story, it seems, is not unique. Freshman English major Danny Prinx was left similarly stupefied when one of his professors, Cathleen Klumpf gave an unexpected answer to one of his questions. When discussing the guidelines for an upcoming paper, Prinx asked what font Klumpf would prefer they use, to which Klumpf shrugged and told him that, “any font is fine so long as it’s legible.”
Prinx was flummoxed. “Any font? Any? Does that mean I can use Impact? Comic Sans? Brush Script? Papyrus? Of course, I’ll probably just use Times New Roman. But the freedom — the freedom is excruciating.”
Klumpf was surprised that her comment was so controversial. “Sure, I don’t want to read 50 papers in a bunch of silly fonts. But I’m not going to take off points for it. Why would I? I grade students on the content, not the aesthetic, of the work they turn in. And anyway, I teach a 200-level English class. It’s going to take a lot more than a paper written in Chalkduster to get me to give one of those little twerps a B.”
Von Schmutz agreed with Klumpf’s sentiments. “It’s not so much that we don’t care, it’s just that we care a little less than the students think we do,” he clarified, rapidly flipping through a pile of tests and marking ‘92%’ on each of them. “We only have so much time in the day. We only have so much energy. We’re not going to waste that energy on being mad about tiny inconveniences when we need it to figure out how the hell Blackboard works.”
Despite von Schmutz’s reasoning, the UMBC community is still taking the realization harshly. Many students have fallen into an existential despair, wondering: if my professors don’t care about the minutiae of my every assignment, what’s even the damn point anymore? Others students have devolved into heedless revelery, upon realizing that the hours upon hours they used to spend carefully wording emails and adjusting the margins on their papers could have instead gone towards having fun and enjoying life. Others are trying to continue life as usual, albeit with little success. One thing is certain: from this day forward, UMBC will never be the same.