College Myths Debunked: My Professor is Late! Should I Wait?

    Posted in College, Lifestyle

Empty Classroom


By Kari

As college students, we are constantly inundated with new knowledge. It can be useful, thought-provoking, or crammed into our head on a Starbucks-fueled binge several hours before an exam. However, very rarely do we question the validity of all this new knowledge (unless you take philosophy classes, then you’ll question away).

That’s where College Candy comes in. We’re not going to debate whether or not the Theory of Relativity actually exists (a disappointment, I know, but I’m a communications major and stopped taking science classes after Baby Bio fresh year). However, we are here to thoroughly investigate the most widespread college knowledge (no, not rhyming)—the myth.

We’ve all been there. It’s 9:04 am on a chilly Wednesday. We’re regretting our decision to pass on Starbucks (and especially regretting the decision to have a “practice” beer pong tournament with the roomies last night). We’re drumming our fingers on our desks, thinking of our still warm beds, wondering if our professor is going to show (and praying that she doesn’t).

Ok, now it’s 9:05, only 15 more minutes (10 if we’re waiting for a T.A.). If Dr. So-and-So still hasn’t shown, we are free and clear to peace out and crawl right back into bed. It’s the golden rule of classes- if your prof is x-amount of minutes late, class is automatically canceled, and the students who waited so—ahem—patiently, will suffer no penalty.

I remember the first magical time this happened to me. I was a nervous freshman, bundled up in my Hollister jean jacket, listening to the agitated upperclassmen counting down to 15 minutes around me. When our T.A. still hadn’t shown, they simultaneously dipped out, and one sophomore took pity on me enough to explain that I, too, should leave. “It’s like, on the campus website as an official rule,” she’d told me. From that day forward, even the slightest offense of tardiness starts me on an internal countdown.

But am I right? Yes and no. Most schools (including mine) won’t waste precious ink in the student handbook to specify such a rule. An official at University of South Florida agrees: “ I have never seen a written policy on this question.   I’ve heard the rumor about waiting 15 minutes for a prof with a masters, 30 minutes for a PhD….but I have never been able to locate a formal policy.  (And if I were a student, I would be sure to be the last one to leave, however long the rest of them waited).”

According to Snopes though, some schools do specify the elusive waiting period. At Clemson, it’s a required component of every class syllabus. However, the differentiation between T.A. wait time and professor wait time is pretty nonexistent. While fully accredited professors do enjoy more benefits than their assistants, they don’t automatically earn an extra 5 minutes of students’ time (when they’re late to class.)

So how to deal with this dilemma? When in doubt, check your syllabus, if there’s nothing in there about a “wait” policy it’s up to you whether you sit there for 15 minutes or the entirety of the class period (or just see what your classmates think). But unless you can find a specific rule in your student handbook, this myth is most likely false at your institution of higher learning. As for me, I’ll continue to interpret my professors’ lateness as a perfect excuse for me to skip class (although I normally don’t have any trouble coming up with them on my own).

What would you do? Have you ever had a professor explain their “late-wait policy”?

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