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When some students start their first year at Stellenbosch University (SU) they want to know the do’s and don’ts to help them get through their studies smoothly. However, the don’ts in terms of what not to do to provoke lecturers might not occur to everyone.

As humans we all tend to have some type of pet peeve, something that annoys us to no end. For some people hearing someone chew makes them want to burst a vein in their head. Others cannot stand when people mix up “your” and “you’re”.

The question to consider here is: What are the consequences of students provoking lecturers’ pet peeves? The very people responsible for setting and marking our exams or granting extensions. Furthermore, what are some of the common pet peeves lecturers may have?

Professor Johan Fourie from the Economics Department says that the use of cell phones during class remains the most frustrating pet peeve. While students tend to think that lecturers do not see them using their phones or sometimes simply don’t care, Fourie says they do, and it’s annoying. “Except if you urgently need medical advice or need to buy Tesla shares – although you’re already too late for that – your phone can wait till after class,” Fourie says.

He adds that students never showing up to class is the most surprising to him. “I had a student a while ago who, at the end of the semester, asked me whether he could speak to the lecturer of the course. I was the lecturer, so he had clearly not been in a single class. When I informed him of the fact, I must admit some respect for the remarkable confidence the young man displayed in simply shrugging off the embarrassment and impolitely insisting on an extension of his essay deadline.”

Despite students not showing up to class and the use of cell phones when they do, it would seem as though lecturers choose to separate their personal feelings from their professional ones. This is in terms of student behaviour influencing the leniency granted when setting an exam or marking a paper. “I separate student behaviour from the content of the course and the way I grade. I miss grading an excellent essay or paper and not being able to see the name of the student, though,” Fourie says.

Professor Sandra Swart from the History Department says she is slightly annoyed at the degrading alliance between lecturers and their students. “I will say that I wish students would trust us a little more. In the ‘60s there was an alliance between students and their professors – against the state and against the ‘suits’. But there has been a progressive loss of trust between lecturers and their students. This should not be the case. I want to remind students that for the most part – with some awkward exceptions – your professors were the smartest kids in the class and could have chosen any other job, but they chose to be here, with you. We care about our subjects; we care about our research but for the most part we do care very deeply about our students. I wish students realized this,” she says.

“The other ‘pet peeve’ that follows like an angry little Schnauzer at my heels, is the dangerous call for people to ‘stay in the lane’. No! Don’t do that – live like you all drive – veer wildly out of your lane. Care about and be curious about the whole world – not only your own parochial concerns. And always, always, always make friends that do not simply replicate you and your own world view. The echo chamber stultifies you. Meet diverse people, fall in love with crazily unsuitable humans, read books recommended by strangers. Friends should not be a mirror – they should be a window,” Swart added.

Taking all the above information into consideration, it is evident that small adjustments to our otherwise typical class routines can really make a difference and make our courses far more enjoyable with the added benefit of having a happy lecturer.

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