Humanities Student Tries a Big Lecture for the First Time

By Michael Gritzbach

If you have ever met me, you know I am a rather archetypal English student. So much so, in fact, that I am in my fourth semester at this university, and the largest lecture I have ever attended was 80 students. Recently, it was brought to my attention that this is not the experience of a typical Harvard student. So, I decided to check out a big lecture just to see what I was missing.

On Friday, Feb. 3, in the record-breaking cold, I trekked to the Science Center to attend Life Sciences 1B, a class that I understood to be full of hundreds of depressed premeds. I walked into Science Center B, where I encountered truly every freshman I know.

Immediately, I was impressed with the production value — a GIF fire was roaring on the projector screen and some fun music was playing. The professor was dancing around in the front. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. But then, I saw the lecture topic was gene editing.

I sat down near the back so as to remain inconspicuous. Suddenly, I panicked: I haven’t done the reading! But the lecture was about to begin. Here are my thoughts throughout the lecture, in real time:

1:31 p.m.

“You could have gone to a different school.” — The professor. Yikes. I mean, true. Also, this is a truly crazy number of people all in one class.

1:33 p.m.

Why is everyone talking? Why is everyone on their phones? This does not happen in seminars. I’m scared.

1:35 p.m.

The professor keeps walking up into the aisles and it seems ominous. Is he going to cold call? I, again, am not actually in this class.

1:40 p.m.

Someone in my row is raising her hand. The professor either hasn’t seen her, or he did and didn’t call on her. She’s been raising her hand for several minutes. I feel bad for her.

1:43 p.m.

HE SAW HER! Why is he running away…. WHY IS HE THROWING A YELLOW CUBE AT HER?!

1:44 p.m.

Oh. It’s a microphone. And she caught it! Go her. I would never catch it. I would never ask a question in this class, because I’d be scared about not catching the cube.

1:53 p.m.

Apparently we are not messing with heritable genome editing, which I think means no eugenics. Good.

1:54 p.m.

“Maybe down the road, but not now,” was the final word on heritable gene editing. Uh oh.

2:01 p.m.

I’ve finally pinpointed what this experience is reminding me of. This lecture has Ted Talk energy.

2:02 p.m.

We’re talking about antibodies. Ooof. Wait — the professor just did a little voice pretending to be the coronavirus. I appreciate the theatrics. It did not get nearly enough of a laugh. To be fair, I didn’t laugh.

2:04 p.m.

The Wi-Fi in this room is so bad, because several hundred people are on their laptops and iPads and phones all at the same time. I’m just trying to load my little magazine to read because this class is so boring.

2:06 p.m.

The professor asked for an example of a palindrome and about a hundred people yelled “RACE CAR!” at him.

2:10 p.m.

He asked for a drum roll and nobody gave him one. :(

2:16 p.m.

Oh my god. He said there would be a question and everybody pulled out their phones. Does this question count for points? This seems kind of high stakes. A bunch of people are wearing white hats right now and walking around, asking people what they think the answer is. Cult vibes, for sure.

2:18 p.m.

It’s over. That was harrowing.

2:27 p.m.

“What’s the point of bringing back [d0d0s] if their habitat is gone? Probably good eating.” — The professor.

2:30 p.m.

It has taken an hour for the novelty to wear off. I’m ready to leave. I think the people behind me are also ready to leave. They’re passing TikToks back and forth.

2:34 p.m.

I just saw the craziest GCal of all time on the girl in front of me’s computer. There’s a whole day where I only see one tiny sliver of white space. It’s color-coded in extremely bright primary colors. I’m scared.

2:35 p.m.

Another question, but it’s an all-of-the-above situation. Even I know this one.

2:41 p.m.

Basically everybody is talking even though the lecture is still going. Am I going insane? I want this freedom! But also I think I’d die if everybody talked through all my classes.

2:44 p.m.

OMG he just mentioned a book! “Brave New World.” Maybe we all aren’t so different after all <3.

2:45 p.m.

Everybody just started to leave and then he told them to stay. Yeah. Maybe classes aren’t all so different.

Well, I can only say that this has been an… enlightening experience. I’m happy I chose peace and don’t have to take giant classes like this. If you can’t avoid them, my heart goes out to you. Time to go back to the lovely Barker Center where the vibes are good and I get to discuss fun little books with my fifteen closest friends!

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