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Letter to the editor

#back2school: An open letter to my students

September 19, 2019

Dear Student,

I never thought I would write this epistle to you, but I miss you. Walking down the tranquil but deserted hallways in the summer, finally made me realize that I needed you more than I thought I did. Nobody slipped a late assignment under my door or gave me an incredulous excuse for why he missed the 8 a.m. test. I know this may be hard for you to believe but I missed that. As we prepare to meet again next week, here are a few things to keep in mind for the new school year:

Read the syllabus. I distribute hardcopies of the syllabus and spend 20 minutes of class time on the first day of class reviewing it for a reason. Please spend 5 minutes of your precious time to look it over (I know this is a big task). I didn’t appreciate your email last year asking about office hours when that was bolded and bulleted on the second line of the first page of the syllabus.

Watch the news or at least read a newspaper. You are fortunate to live in an information age, make it count! You have access to free news apps, newspapers, farm journals, and over two million news articles that flood the internet daily. Harnessing some of these resources will enrich your learning experience and teach you the skills you may never learn in the classroom. I know you are busy, but how about spending 15 minutes of Netflix time each day to read/listen to the news? Who knows, the shift in the demand curve from changes in income that caused you so much grief last term would make more sense to you? Remember that, it is never too late to cultivate a reading life. It will be a useful addition to your already amazing social, work and academic lives.

Email messages are not text messages. I know the distinction between texts and emails is almost blurred but the two are not the same. The fact that you can send an email from your phone doesn’t make the email a text message. Address your emails properly, read them over and signed off. Your future employers may misinterpret your lack of proper communication ethic as a lack tact. As a favor to you, I plan to not respond to your text/instant message type emails this academic year.

Your many virtual friends are not enough. I know you have 500 Facebook friends, 200 Instagramers, 150 LinkedIn connections, 85 pInteresters and 250 Twitter following and followers. Isn’t it amazing that from your dormitory on South Main Street, River falls, your network of friends extends from Villa Las Estrellas, Antarctica to Lulongo, Uganda? The reality is that half of those “friends” are only close enough to like your posts, your paths may never actually cross, unfortunately. Make real tangible human friends! Learn the art of sharing spaces with other real tangible human beings. This will make you a better person. As a microcosm of the real-world, the university offers you the opportunity to develop your social skills. A potential lifelong friend may be a desk and a hello away.

Stuff happens. Your university life is only a small part of your whole life and sometimes things, irrespective of how well-intended, may not go as planned. Your high school sweetheart might finally decide to throw in the towel, or your dearly beloved cat might run away preferring a life of solitude in the wild then living with you. You may even spill coffee (Always backup your work!) on your laptop the night before the term project is due or fail the test you prepared so well for. In the unlikely event that any of these ominous incidents occur in your life this year, remember to situate the part in the context of the whole. If this makes you feel any better, I will insert the “stuff happens” clause in my syllabus to provide a modicum of relief. Again, read the syllabus. See you next week.

With lots of affection,

Albert Boaitey
Assistant Professor
Agricultural Economics