Yesterday marked a sour end to an otherwise enjoyable and engaging lecture. As usual, the lord of all this chaos was our COM443 lecturer, Principles and Techniques in Advertising. We had just received an individual and a group assignment, and were already conducting the typically Singaporean preliminary discussions as to how to approach it. That was when Fat Man and Little Boy were dropped.
"Due to the recent financial crisis affecting the United States," he started in an amusing old-man voice, "the BeBoP Corporation (that's what he calls it) is facing numerous problems and therefore are retrenching."
Cue: collective gasp and buzz.
"Please choose a member of your team to be fired," he continued in his usual voice, "the fired members will then come together to form a new ad agency (what he calls our groups)."
Everyone was staring at each other speechless. There was initial talk at insisting that all was well within the company and no retrenchment was necessary, but we knew well by now that he would never let that pass. Comical reenactments of the Survivor voting scene became reality for some groups. Joking suggestions of doing open numbers came to pass for other groups. (For those who don't know, open numbers is a system of selection by chance where at the intonation of ohhh-pen numm-bers! group members display a number with their fingers. The sum total is calculated, and the calculator starts counting in a circle until he reaches that number. Depending on the situation, the identified person is either first in a game, or the one who gets booted.) For a couple of groups like mine, we went by random selection.
Personally I feel that we picked the best method of handling such an unfavorable situation. However clear it is that we have been pushed into a corner into doing this, there is that key element of choice in voting. You made a choice to boot someone, and that someone was me. If the outed person knows he or she hasn't been contributing to the group, this only serves to lower that person's morale and confidence about his or her true capabilities. If he or she is oblivious to group members' sentiments of him/her not doing his due share of work, or if he/she was just the best candidate to pick out of all the others, he/she will start questioning himself/herself about where he/she had gone wrong. Was I an asshole? Didn't I do enough work? Should I have helped out more in X or Y?
Obviously there's still disappointment and upset in a random choice, but the unlucky person is at least comforted by the fact that there was no element of selection in this result. There can be little space for any sort of blame, unless everyone fold quarters you crush into a circle la. Then you asking for it right you try and be different?
My question today is: how far can a lecturer reasonably swing us through the mud of real life? How far down can he dip is in it without drowning us?
One has every right to argue that, wake up your ideas you young brat, that's what happens in the real world, don't argue against what you know nothing of. Now that's true. But flip the coin and look at this academically. For those booted out, their academic stability, at least in their minds, are churning 6 times over. They have to face the uncertainty of unfamiliarity all over again, and in such cases where there are known cock members (and where the member may indeed be one), it is in direct interference with their grades. There goes their A. Fuck, there goes their B! Is that morally right for a lecturer to do? Jeopardize students' grades with a possibly over-the-top simulation of the corporate world?
If one wishes to expose undergrad students to real world scenarios - dressing up for interviews, suiting up for presentations, working in randomly selected groups - I respect that. Better than us finding the world not as sparkly white as the walls of our lecture theatre. But I am of the opinion that lecturers should not carry the game so far as to affect the excellence of our grades.
What do you think?