Suddenly, a potential class disruption

I was just about to introduce our guest speaker and start a simulated interview in lecture.

A student on the back row of the auditorium had raised his hand a few times as I was explaining the day’s interviewing assignment. I hadn’t called on him, as I often find that if I finish giving directions the questions students have are answered. But his hand was still raised, so I called on him.

He spoke in an unusually loud and firm voice. He said we had been studying objective reporting and that he wanted to know how I would address an article in today’s Alligator. He made a short pause and was about to expand on that thought.

First, I could tell we could be headed for trouble. A few students in the class were starting to make some of those egg-him-on sounds. Second, I must admit that I hadn’t read that day’s Alligator, but I knew this would be a controversial issue. Third, I knew that if we did take time to discuss this article, we would be pulled off our mission for the day.

I put up my hands to put the brakes on him.

“I know you’re interested in us discussing news coverage, but that isn’t our topic for today. If we have to choose between taking on a news topic or spending time on what will be a graded assignment, I think the class would choose to spend the time on the graded assignment. If we have time at the end of class, we’ll get back to your question.”

We moved on. The guest speaker came to the stage. Students got ready to take notes. I quickly stepped to the front row and asked the students, “I must admit I didn’t read the paper today. What do you think his topic is?”

“A fraternity got suspended because of hazing,” one responded. Others nodded.

The interview went as planned. The students took notes and asked questions. The time for class passed. In my closure of class, I said that the speaker would be available after class to answer questions and that I would be available after class to discuss objectivity in news coverage.

Class ended. The student who posed the question and the others who had urged him on all left the auditorium without further comment.

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