The University Lecture Series invites diverse, distinguished members of the UT community to speak a few times each semester. These lecture topics range anywhere from preventing drug overdose deaths to the Latinization of America.
The University Lecture Series website says that “All students, faculty, alumni, staff and community guests are invited, but the events will be aimed at entering first-year students.” To prioritize freshmen students, the University mandates that signature courses require attendance at one of these lectures or require online viewing. Professors often opt for the former, requiring attendance.
These lectures can get pretty full, considering the size of the freshman class. This year, it was 8,960 students — along with other classes, faculty and members whom the lecture is open to. Sometimes, students who are required to attend the lecture can’t get in because the seats have filled. This can cause unnecessary stress for students, as they now have to try to compensate for their attendance grade. The University Lecture Series should implement a priority registration system for students who are required to attend a specific lecture for their class.
Public health freshman Elvi Casia needed to attend lectures for two of her classes this year. She was unable to attend both lectures.
For one class, Casia said that she had to fill out an RSVP survey her professor sent, so he could determine how many students would attend the lecture. Even though she filled out the survey for her professor, she could not attend the lecture because the seats were full by the time she got there. This happened to her twice.
Students may not always have time to arrive well in advance of a lecture because of a hectic schedule. If a student’s grade depends on lecture attendance, then they should have a seat reserved at the lecture.
“I don’t have time to get to a lecture way in advance and sit there idly,” Casia said. “My day usually starts at 9 in the morning and ends at 9 in the night. I cut everything close because I have to, and it’s important for me to attend these lectures because it’s part of my grade.”
The series does offer recordings of these lectures on their website. However, this does not help students whose professors take attendance at the lecture.
Thomas Pangle, the Joe R. Long endowed chair in democratic studies in the Department of Government and co-director of the Jefferson Center, requires his students to attend three lectures during the course of his class. He asks students to sign an attendance sheet at these lectures.
“I selected a particular set of lectures because they supplement the understanding of civic education, and that’s a big theme in my course,” said Pangle.
I went to one of these lectures for my signature course last semester. As Pangle indicated, the lecture was extremely valuable and gave me a broader perspective, not only for approaching the rest of my assignments, but also for approaching my first semester of college. This opportunity should be accessible to students, especially if their class grade depends on it. Students deserve to be able to attend lectures mandatory for any of their classes.
ULS can address this issue by instituting a system where professors can request priority registration for their students if they plan to make attendance mandatory.
The University requires freshmen attend these lectures for a reason — they enrich signature classes and sometimes other aspects of student life. If students cannot attend lectures they’re required to attend, they miss out on a grade and a part of their education. It is important for the University to give students guaranteed admission into lectures that supplement their education.
Dronamraju is a public health freshman from Dallas.