A lesson in manners

When a student walked in an hour late for the first class, NYU Business Professor Scott Galloway told him to go away.  The student e-mailed to complain that he’d been trying out other classes that meet at the same time and didn’t know the professor’s code of conduct.  Galloway’s reply (with the student’s name removed) has gone viral. Via Deadspin:

For the record, we also have no stated policy against bursting into show tunes in the middle of class, urinating on desks or taking that revolutionary hair removal system for a spin. However, xxxx, there is a baseline level of decorum (i.e., manners) that we expect of grown men and women who the admissions department have deemed tomorrow’s business leaders.

Galloway advised: “Get your shit together.”

Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance…these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility…these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx.

Good advice, I think.

Instapundit, a law professor, sides with Galloway.

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  1. The professor doesn’t need to use foul language and might consider learning how to use a gerund, but it’s hard to argue with his point.

  2. Students would be less ignorant of manners if their professors or bosses ever had them.

    This letter may be right on the issue, but how in the world would a student, even a B-school student, know that their behavior is boorish when their profs are obviously boors? When has this student been told quietly about decorum? Berating a student is not polite. Galloway’s point would be better made if he demonstrated grace.

    Should a student shop courses in this way? No. Should he open his mouth and admit it? No. Should his teacher mock him? No.

    Civilized university life died in the 60s. It’s a shame. But Galloway behaves boorishly. A better example would have been simply to address the issue of a code of behavior for the B school.

  3. Devilbunny says:

    Having read both letters, it appears that the student was interested in three separate classes and – like a good consumer – wandered into each to find out which was best suited to him (or her). As some noted, it would be rude to do this in even the second week of the semester, but on the first night? How self-important can you be?

    Urinating on desks, breaking into showtunes, or personal grooming are all profoundly more disruptive than… opening a door. Does he lock his students in and prohibit bathroom breaks?

  4. Independent George says:

    how in the world would a student, even a B-school student, know that their behavior is boorish when their profs are obviously boors? When has this student been told quietly about decorum?

    Why should an adult need to be told about decorum?

    As some noted, it would be rude to do this in even the second week of the semester, but on the first night? How self-important can you be?

    Why is it acceptable at all? If you wish to sample a class, arrive on time with everybody else, and stay for the entire duration. If you have a conflict, then contact the instructors before any of the classes begin. Interrupting a class in progress, or leaving in the middle of another class, is just plain rude. It would serve the student right if he weren’t allowed to register for any of the classes he interrupted.

  5. –Why should an adult need to be told about decorum?

    Because how else will they have heard of it? Adults behave as their peers and their “betters” do. The betters here are bosses and profs. Galloway demonsrates none, and is an object lesson in how adults don’t have decorum, so no young adults would learn any.

    Let me say it again: Universities don’t believe in decorum or etiquette. They don’t ask for it from their professors or their students, and neither demonstrates it. How was this student supposed to know that suddenly college life had different rules that applied to the student but not the professor?

  6. This was not an undergraduate, though, was it? B-school is somewhat late to need a crash course in courtesy. At Stern School of Business’s website, I find that the average work experience for a student is 4.7 years. The average age is 27.

    If this adult, who has returned from the workforce to graduate school, hasn’t learned decorum or etiquette, that isn’t the professor’s fault. Yes, his letter is blunt, but it isn’t out of bounds for the situation.

    It’s also possible that someone else tried to explain to the student at an earlier point in his life the reason for respect of others. If so, that person was too gentle.

    By the way, the student deserved the response just for the entitled, prima donna-ish tone of his letter.

  7. This scene is repeated a thousand times during the first week of school at every Business School in the nation. There is nothing unusual about the student’s behavior. Apparently the professor is a pompous windbag, because everyone else not only tolerates it but considers it an appropriate process. That’s how the “add/drop” period goes, and if you want to teach you need to get used to it. Perhaps the prof was merely offended that the student gave consideration to taking another class.

  8. I am a college professor…

    Professor Galloway is a jack-ass. I have taught classes at Ivy League schools, large public flagship research universities, and regional public teaching-oriented universities…

    The first week is always hectic because students are encouraged by their advisers and the administrators to shop around for classes. You just need to go with the flow… at my university, this shopping period lasts 2 weeks. As long as students enter the class quietly, I have no problem.

  9. Cardinal Fang says:

    The first week of classes is shopping period. Everyone is trying to figure out what classes to take. Professor Uptight should get used to it.

  10. Those of you who think Professor Galloway is a jack-ass may be right. The student, however, was entirely wrong in his behavior, and Professor Galloway was absolutely right to do what he did. He also writes better than any of you.

  11. If I treated my customers the way this professor does I’d soon be out on the street looking for a new job.

  12. By your same logic, Allison, we will always have someone else who is our “better”, hence, we will always have the right not to have any manners, as long as there is one “superior” or “boss” that misbehaves. What rubbish.

    I find the very fact that an MBA student still needs to be taught manners shocking, and even more shocking that there are people who agree that it is ok for them to be treated like babies.

    Even if class sampling was fine – the spirit of this is to allow students to try out a few classes before committing. A few classes here means “the entire session” and not 15 minutes in every class. What can you find out in 15 minutes? What about the disruption to students who intend to sit through the whole class to get a good understanding of the syllabus? You might as well not consider the class if you were planning to go for 15 minutes.

    Grow up and stop being so self-centered. Or perhaps that’s what the MBA is about?

  13. I also think the professor was out of line. He was very rude; I certainly would not want to stay in that class after being embarrassed like that. Professors – and all educators at all levels – have the responsibility to foster and teach… he failed.

  14. to allison, and anyone else wondering how in the world a person might learn etiquette before they enter college (under grad or grad). . . PARENTS

  15. Mike,

    How was the student wrong in his behavior?
    The article didn’t mention if the student entered the class loud and rowdy… if a student enters late quietly, what is the problem? Again, If this was happening later in the semester, I might agree with you… But on the first day? At the vast majority of universities today, the first week is considered a “shopping period.” Students are in fact ENCOURAGED by academic advisers to shop around for classes.

  16. Bill Leonard says:

    Shopping around for the classes that seem to “fit” best? Why should that be necessary. When pursuing a major — or in this case, pursuing a gradute degree — isn’t there a list of required courses, and a general sequence in which such courses should be taken?

    Good for Galloway for giving this immature clown a dose of reality!

  17. >If I treated my customers the way this professor does
    > I’d soon be out on the street looking for a new job.

    Nel, professors aren’t salesmen, and students aren’t customers. Even if they were, then the customers would be the students actually sitting in their chairs and taking the class, not the entitled jerk who tried to disrupt the classroom experience that they and the taxpayer were shelling out good money for.