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Study: College students believe they deserve entitled treatment

Date Posted Sep 19, 2014

A study of 67 participants in three first year experience seminars (not conducted at Rutgers), found that:

  • Students believe that they should be treated as customers of the university
  • They believe that they deserve teachers who care about their students
  • 78% believe that it is the professor’s duty to respond to their email within 24 hours but only 45% believe that they should do the same
  • They believe that since they’re paying for their education, they should get to decide whether they go to class or not
  • 97% believe that they should be allowed to text during class

My favorite comment from one student:

“Faculty do this for a living [and] are getting paid . . . We (as students) are in several classes and have lives outside of the university. Faculty do not.”

Note: This study was published in a special issue of New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2013:135 31-36, available through Interlibrary Loan.


Dr. Gayle Stein is the Associate Director for Instructional Technology in the Office of Instructional and Research Technology.


lol faculty have no lives outside the university? are they monks? lololololol

I can’t help but think the term “university” here is used loosely. Surely, no serious students would honestly think that they can decide whether to attend to class if they felt like it, or that somehow faculty only exist to serve them and literally have no life? I wouldn’t look at this study as representative of all students, this is obviously to small of a study to be taken seriously. I just can’t believe that such a huge percentage think the professors should serve them quickly, but that they can respond whenever they feel like it.

I agree, students should have the right to not come to class or to text during class (after all they do have lives outside of school, wait REALLY???). But they MUST realize that I care enough about them that I will fail them for not learning the material. I mean all I can do is teach and inspire, I can’t MAKE them learn anything if they don’t want to. It would be very interesting to see if upper classmen have the same views, after they have matured a few years!!!

Dr. Stein,

I am a student and have witnessed firsthand the laughable lack of respect my peers sometimes have for their professors and members of the faculty. It runs the gamut from saying “yo!” to get a professors attention to making statements that, as you mention, imply faculty members have nothing to do but grade assignments, respond immediately to student emails, and devise new ways to screw students.

With that said, I’m surprised that you included the first two bullet points in your summary. Shame on you for suggesting that students are not entitled to faculty who care about them. Additionally, students are customers of the university whether administrators want to see it that way or not. In this instance, the axiom that the “customer is always right” obviously does not apply. But students often times risk financial ruin through hefty student loans and deserve transparency and an administrative system that is responsive and serves the needs of the students not the needs of administrators.

Certainly not all students behave this way, and perhaps it is a failing of the admissions policies crafted by administrators that contribute to a student body that is less-than-prepared to handle college life and all that comes along with it, including interacting with those who are in a position of near absolute authority.

Kids in general think they’re entitled to whatever they want. Which makes it particularly hilarious when they realize the world doesn’t actually owe them anything.

I do believe that students should get to decide whether they go to class or not. I’m not saying its wise but there should not be a rule that you miss class and fail. There are classes that need to be attended every class however, there are exceptions. A good portion of my classes are or have been just reviews. These professors post their slides for the students to use and then spend the three hour class just reading the slides without adding any addition information. For classes like this where I know that’s all the class is going to be, I should have an option not to attend without it effecting my grade. This of course only applies to when the fail grade is for not attending a regular class. This in not way means that students should be able to miss classes where exams are given without a excused reason.

I know a professor at a different university who puts it this way: students are customers in the sense that people who join an open tournament or hire a trial lawyer are customers. Their paying tuition (or, more often, their parents’ paying it) really does entitle students to some things. It entitles them to the opportunity to come to class to benefit from the teaching, and to a fair assessment. Similarly, paying participants in tournaments are entitled to the use of the grounds in good to and to a fair judgment on whether or not they in fact won. And paying legal fees entitles participants in a trial to the lawyer’s efforts to defend them.

But these payments do not entitle us to other things. If you join a tournament and play badly, perhaps after not practicing well, or if you decide not to play all the rounds of the tournament, then you aren’t entitled to a prize: that’s not what you paid for. If you go to court but speak carelessly when called upon as a witness, or if there’s no real defense for what you did, then it doesn’t entitle you to the verdict you desire. You’re buying the legal representation, not the verdict. And if you pay your tuition money but neglect to learn the material, or if you skip classes or text your way through them, it doesn’t entitle you to a passing grade. The grades are not for sale: the opportunity to learn and be graded fairly is.

Sorry, I meant to write “paying participants in tournaments are entitled to the use of the grounds in good condition and to a fair judgment…”

I completely agree with Michael. This was obviously a very pointed statistic and probably doesn’t take into account the percentage of students who truly do work diligently to get good grades. The same could also be said about professors with tenure as they usually need to do something bad in order to get fired. The truth is – students are customers of the university, the customer is NOT always right. However, universities, especially those that increase rates at higher than inflation rates, should be providing better services and like the real world these professors (many of which do care about their students’ success) should care about their students.

I, being a twenty-three year old upperclassmen, too believe student’s should have certain entitlements for paying tuition. I began a four year college after graduating community college and working to save money for Rutgers. It is ridiculous to think that I can pay upwards of almost ten-thousand dollars just to sit in a class where the professors ignore student interaction. That being said most professors are not of such delinquent behavior and the lower class students are in the wrong. Texting during class is as juvenile as one can get. Yes, it is of course true that you paid to be here and therefore should be “allowed” in a sense a certain range of freedom. However, if you are paying such outstanding amounts to learn, put away the phone for an hour and a half and just listen. Maybe this is because I have learned much about the value of knowledge, or perhaps because I just don’t like cellphones. But I believe both the students AND faculty need to adjust. Students, it would be wisest to learn and go to class as you have paid for it. If you are on a course to failure I believe you may want to spend your large sums of cash elsewhere. Professors, it is your job to teach not regurgitate. I have met many fantastic professors who do so but I have also run into many who, due to their high standing in a particular university, have over-inflated their egos and believe students are just submissive sheeple to drain of funds.

P.S: The unintelligent behemoths who think student’s have lives whereas professors do not is an abhorring creation of a misleading society. Or maybe just a “Troll”.

And please excuse some of my grammatical errors as i have noticed, (such as using student’s incorectly at the end where it should be students).

The grammar and overzealous use of a thesaurus in some of these comments is worrying…

I am currently a nontraditional, older full time student at Rutgers. That being said, I find the fact that you posted this study at all ridiculous. 67 participants? That hardly represents the student body at Rutgers, let alone the entirety of university students in New Jersey or the country. In regard to each of your bullet points:

Students are absolutely customers of the university. Considering the fact that I’m already in over $20,000 worth of debt and have two years remaining, I find it absurd to ask me to consider myself anything but a paying customer.

Since when is believing that I deserve a teacher who cares about their students expecting entitled treatment? Are you aware of the definition of entitlement? Every student who takes the time to walk through the doors of a classroom with the hope of gaining an education deserves a teacher who hopes to give that education, and cares whether or not they are successful in doing so.

I do believe that professors have a responsibility to respond to student emails. While it is understandable that certain professors may have a large number of students, and therefore sometimes cannot respond that quickly, I personally have never had an issue with a professor not responding to my emails. From what I have experienced, most professors don’t think that responding to their students emails is them expecting entitled treatment.

As someone mentioned above, many classes are reviews and readings of power point slides. While I do believe that is necessary to attend every class to receive the full benefit of education, I also believe that it should be up to the student whether or not to attend bulk lectures. Obviously this does not apply to labs and more intimate, interaction based classes, but if someone has paid for an education that they do not wish to receive verbally, that should be a decision they make. As long as the material is learned and tests are passed, I don’t see a huge problem.

As far as texting during class goes, it is juvenile and distracting, and a student should be respectful enough of their professor not to do it while they are lecturing. This is the only point this study has made that suggests expected entitled treatment.

Considering the obvious disdain for the student body you have expressed in posting this “study”, I truly hope that you are not a professor at Rutgers. If you are, I truly hope that I never end up in one of your classes.

This is an interesting article. What point are you trying to prove with these statistics?

I find it completely appalling that you find it laughable that students demand faculty that cares. I have a wide variety of friends that go to various different universities within the north east coast, and the are treated as actual HUMAN BEINGS with feelings and goals and NOT just numbers to be given a quick ‘shut up’ answers. I have gone to advisers on this campus to ask about how I should go about my major, and was given the answer “everything is online” really the steps I need to take to move toward my future is online? Does their generation not laugh at us for not being able to communicate face to face and being a generation of individuals who are “glued to our electronics”? So when I go to a HUMAN BEING to for face-to-face guidance I expect that HUMAN BEING to treat me as an equal and give me the respect and advice I deserve and am PAYING OVER $13,000 for !

Let me start by saying that I didn’t conduct the study or comment on it – I simply summarized it because I thought it contained data that were worth discussing, even though the sample size is small. That being said, here’s my summary of your comments:

– Faculty can inspire, not make students learn;
– Students are entitled to faculty who care about whether they learn;
– Faculty should create interactive experiences that make students want to learn;
– Students should get to decide whether it’s worth going to class if their instructor is simply reading from slides that parrot material from the textbook.

If my summary is not accurate, please let me know. If any of you want to conduct a similar study at Rutgers, please do so. I look forward to hearing about what you learn.

Stop using percentages and tart saying how many were interviewed. Also, how did you ask these question? Were they yes or n questions or were they open ended questions? I can’t take this report seriously.

As you’ve stated in the first sentence, the sample is not only small, but as it only includes freshman, it is not reflective of ‘students’ as you have claimed it to be. You stated ‘College students believe they deserve entitled treatment’, that is not from a study, that’s the conclusion you have made.

If you want detailed analysis of doctors, don’t survey pre-med students. Similarly, when you paint students with broad strokes, base it on data that surveys a larger sample size, possibly one that includes students beyond their freshman year.

If I had my way at “education reform” (if that term still has any hope, as some might say the system needs to be uprooted), degrees, certificates, classes, curriculums—any sort of systemized methodology of generalized knowledge aimed at progressing along an academic “path” of some sort—would become projects where students seek out the knowledgeable (teachers, tutors, instructors and the like) to complete said projects. This would weed out the not-so-serious students from respective fields and hopefully direct them to where they would be more comfortable.

The main idea though would be for those actually-serious students, that they have the freedom to learn at their own pace and find those teachers who inspire them most (or perhaps those teachers they might inspire themselves).

Considering how far technology has gone in spreading information it seems very stubborn of modern education to insist on some of its tired ways and expect that students comply (perhaps simply because the teachers do) and not get frustrated, while one side is being paid and the other pays exhorbitantly. Work is work, and will always be, and we all have to start somewhere, but we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere as societies if we insisted kids walk ten miles in the snow simply because their parents did, so why not expand this wisdom a little, considering the scale of our operations today and the scope of our victories, however small they might be?

As others have said, a study showing freshman are immature is amusing but hardly very informative. I’d be more interested to see what percentage of the hypocrites and those who believe their professors have no lives are still around the next year.

I’d also add that students tend to have a bizarre view of what we’re buying. Half of it is protection from ourselves – we’re not just buying degrees, we’re buying degrees that are worth something only because they’re so much work to obtain. Most employers (outside the hard sciences) value degrees much more because they show a student can consistently work at a high level, rather than for any knowledge gained during college.
As much as students may feel entitled to be treated as customers and get what they want, it’s still the college’s job to make sure the degrees we get have value.

I am disappointed that there’s no citation for the study.
I also think the title of the post is needlessly inflammatory. Even if each of the five bullet points is in fact true, whether that constitutes students’ belief that they deserve entitled treatment is a matter of opinion.

True Story: An instructor asked respondents on one of her exams give thought to a selected issue. One student’s response was “I don’t do think”.

Can any of you top that?

Correction above: to give thought

This is baseless and ridiculous. I pay roughly $30,000 a year to attend this school. My family and I are paying for a service, and I believe that professors should care about me, and all the other students. Is this not an educational facility? This first, is a university, and second, a place of research. Professors should not come here if they do not want to spend time educating the students, but would rather research. I have also had a professor who refused to respond to an email I sent about a direct exam conflict. Rather, in class he addressed the email only to tell us, “The information for the exam is on my web page. I am not answering questions about it”. I am always courteous and respectful of professors, and I should at least be treated as a human being and an individual while trying to communicate with them. Professors like to talk about how we are disrespectful, but many of them treat us with disrespect. They can’t expect a change in students behavior. The main issue is that a student will not treat someone with respect when they are treated rudely, because we are paying this university to educate us. Professors should initiate the respect, and it will come to them. Dr. Stein, please refrain from posting baseless, biased, and negative posts about the entire student body. Thank you.

This is an issue of mixed positives and negatives. Let me address each point:

1. Students believe that they should be treated as customers of the university

Obviously! They had many options. They could have gone to many different colleges. They decided to spend their money here at Rutgers (or if they were looking at receiving a scholarship) then the University in this case is essentially stating it is grateful for their presence.

Of course this doesn’t excuse poor behavior on the part of the Student. What it does warrant is a productive and effective administration and team of teachers. Students who fail to behave properly should be treated like any other customer. Restaurants can kick you out and fine you if you act up. So should Universities be able to do the same: denying aid/scholarships, expulsion on extreme cases of behavior etc. But as long as a student is willing to pay and doesn’t do anything that particularly disrupts the learning environment (and the University has capacity) they should be allowed to stay as with any customer.

2. They believe they deserve teachers who care about their students.

Why on earth is this even on here? Of course they deserve it. Shelling tuition/working hard to obtain scholarships obviously should mean that the faculty care about students. If a professor cannot make time for students since they are too busy conducting their own research then they should look to find a line of work where they are paid to do research and not to teach. Students need the best teachers they can get.

3. 78% believe that it is the professor’s duty to respond to their email within 24 hours but only 45% believe that they should do the same

The number here should be 100% and 100%. Not doing the same is simply unacceptable as a student if a Professor is capable of doing it. And yes, a good teacher should be responsive. Same day responsive.

4. They believe that since they’re paying for their education, they should get to decide whether they go to class or not

Of course! Its one thing if a Student doesn’t do well in a class. If that is due to poor attendance, then shame on them. But if they choose not to come and still are able to engage effectively and excel then all the power to them. The only time a class has a right to keep students coming back is if they are learning when they are at the class. Forcing someone who competes (and wins) at Hackathons, is designing startups, and writing papers in Theoretical Computer Science to attend a Data Structures lecture is a terrible waste of time and resources for someone who could be contributing to the world (and themselves!) in much more effective ways than sitting in a lecture hall hearing material they already know. On the other hand if a student doesn’t actually know the material in the class and WILL LEARN IT IF THEY ATTENDED they have every reason to be there. Choosing not to go should not be punished. The F on the end semester grade will more than suffice for that.

4. 97% believe that they should be allowed to text during class

Only if it isn’t distracting. If a Professor asks you a question, you better have a good response. If that level of awareness and knowledge can be maintained, then text away. If you become a liability in the class, someone that hurts the learning atmosphere due to your texting. Then put it away.

This is common sense.

We are customers of the university and we do deserve teachers who care about their students. As for attendance, teachers should be allowed to decide whether attendance is compulsory or not. I’ve had classes where students only show up on test dates and then blame others for their failures. If you’re too stupid to realize that attendance is required to pass a class whether or not the teacher mandates it, then you probably aren’t suited to a university. The idea that texting should be allowed during class is ridiculous; it’s extremely disrespectful to the professor and distracting to other students in the room. I’m pretty disappointed that 97% said that this should be allowed.

I totally agree with Michael up there. Took the words right out of my head.

Totally agree with Jackie up there too. I was just about to post a huge complaint about this school in general but I want to avoid getting RUscrewed in the near future more so than I am now. On top of that I don’t want the few drunken and oblivious idiots that roam this campus to start shunning me and calling me a Penn State lover because everyone can’t handle realness and maturity. Everyone would much rather be a follower and do what seems cool instead of standing up for what is right and fighting back on the issues we face as a student body at Rutgers. -_- So done with this school and the people in it… that goes for department faculty, other employees, as well as a good portion of the student body here.

And can I just add that all of you students who responded should be my new friends. I honestly felt like I was alone here with the way I thought about teacher and student relationships and what my money pays for when I come to this university. You guys clearly see between the lines and know how to pick up what her underlying message was when she posted that study. I’m not surprised that some faculty think this way based off of the few students who do behave poorly. They are older and I would hope more wiser than us and should know better to not generalize a student body based off a poorly conducted survey. And just off of what I read I can tell everyone who’s been here are the few students who care about an education and want to learn because it’s clearly reflected in their responses. That alone is proof that your study is very biased and only targets the few drunken idiots who roam this campus and are followers because they do only what their friends tell them is cool. Someone said it before that it’s also the admissions department’s fault for allowing such students to be accepted into this university. We’d have a more well-behaved student body if they did a better job in finding a student’s real motive for coming to Rutgers and whether or not they can handle themselves when they’re no longer under adult supervision. But like I said… I need to find you all because you guys are my new best friends. It’s really refreshing and inspiring to see other mature adults who can read between the lines and b.s. that society around them tries to force feed people with.

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