Lifeline for the lazy

It’s time to eliminate group projects

Matthew Rago, Managing Editor

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As students, we have all taken part in a collective sigh of exasperation when the teacher announces an upcoming group project. More often than not, an explanation centering around the need to foster team building skills accompanies the announcement as though most college students, particularly those attending commuter colleges, haven’t learned such skills at, you know, their actual jobs. 

Dedicated students understand the consequences of group projects. The group leader will inevitably be burdened with an increased workload as apathetic group members take credit for the leader’s efforts. Unfortunately, instructors seem to turn a blind eye to such patterns, countering any reservations with outdated explanations of teamwork and camaraderie. What’s worse is that these same instructors grossly underestimate the life experience of millennials and Generation Z, two generations struggling to deal with an economy destabilized by baby boomers and Generation X. 

Our future careers are contingent on our academic prowess. As students, we voluntarily dive into crippling debt in order to afford ourselves a career that will one day offer us financial comfort. We simply cannot afford to see our grade point averages tarnished thanks to an uninvested group partner. Yet our concerns go unheeded.

Earlier this semester, one of my professors assigned a group project midterm, allowing individual students to hand select their own group members. One student whom I had befriended selected me and one other woman, who later left the group due to a series of miscommunications. A week before the midterm was due, my partner informed me she was unwilling to meet at a previously determined time, prompting our third member to depart the group. Two days before the midterm, the remaining group member, who had been responsible for canceling the original meeting, informed me she was unable to complete her portion of the assignment, leaving the entire burden of a three-person project on my shoulders. Sure, this is an anecdote, but it seems to mirror the experiences of most when participating in group projects.

Who are these projects for? During my time at NEIU, I’ve identified a tendency for instructors to cater to the laziest of students. I’ve walked into classrooms where the entire class roster was promised an A simply for showing up. I’ve taken classes where the professor asked if the class was comfortable with her only showing up for one-fourth of the scheduled classes, essentially transacting good grades in exchange for cooperation. Group projects seem to follow the same rubric; in other words, if universities can find a way to tether weaker students to stronger students, they can both raise the average class grade and incentivize students to re-enroll in future semesters. 

That’s simply unfair. Strong students don’t deserve to be burdened by students unwilling or unable to commit to their academic careers. College-level students should be conditioned to adequately prepare themselves for the sake of academic independence. Displacing responsibility for weak students onto stronger students stimulates a parasitic relationship that is both emotionally and mentally taxing for the student or students tasked with actually performing the work. 

Save for a few remarkable cases, college students are adults. We do not need to be coddled or eased into college life. We were forced to learn interpersonal communication in real-life work environments. For those who were fortunate enough to come from a financially stable household, it is the responsibility of their agents of socialization to teach them such skills, not our professors and certainly not fellow students. Artificially boosting grades isn’t a strong enough reason to keep such an ineffective teaching method intact. 

It’s been said before but let’s say it again: eliminate group projects at the college level.