For a better academic life

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At the beginning of the new year, I was hired as a teaching assistant at one of the major Saudi universities. The transition from being a student, sitting on a chair with my backpack and notebook, to standing at a podium and giving a lecture is huge. As I took my first few steps toward the very first class of the year, I realized how surreal the situation was. I opened the door of the classroom and found a room filled with new students whose eyes were fixed on the entrance, waiting to see the person with whom they were to spend the semester. The anticipation was rising as I walked slowly to the podium; their eyes were on me and the wonder on their faces was growing. I stood at the podium and took a deep breath and looked at the sea of people in front of me, I knew what they were thinking.

I knew the questions that were forming in their minds: “Who is this guy? What is he like? Will he fail me if I don’t attend every class? What if I don’t know the answer, will he also fail me?”

These sorts of questions form instantly in the heads of new students. Other questions arise as well: “How should I conduct myself in class? How should I behave? How do I communicate with a doctor?” To students, the world inside the university is unknown; it is yet to be explored by them.

It is imperative for instructors to help their students to settle into this new academic environment. It is a major change for them, as they are no longer high school students; they are now grown men who need to make major decisions in order to kick-start their future.

Indeed, teaching them the fundamentals of different sciences is important. However, educating them about how to approach knowledge and to instill in them academic ethics and morality is of great importance as well. A university is not only just a place for acquiring knowledge in a certain field of science, it is also a place to create an individual who respects science and strives for knowledge that might change humanity for the better.

Unfortunately, some universities are plagued by unprofessional academics who lack academic integrity and ethics. Those “academics” misrepresent academic institutions by abusing their authority in class. A video of an incident surfaced on social media in which an “academic” abused his power by threatening to fail all of his students. It is unclear what caused this threat. However, the threat itself by a member of an academic staff was unethical.

The unethical attitude of a small sample of unprofessional academics has caused the great majority of students to believe that all instructors are alike. How can a person who lacks academic ethics and morality teach them? How can that person hold a position that controls the future of a generation? That is why serious action is needed to combat this plague. Being an academic at university level is a great honor, but it is also a great burden to carry, as the future of all is basically in the hands of only a few.

Adele Al-Sulami


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