Shame Your Unit: MMCS115, BUSL100 & SOC311

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MMCS115 – Academic Cultures and Communication (Words || Cardi B)

I’m at the tail-end of my degree, so I know that at this point in my university career any kind of introductory or first year unit is going to be dull, but when I enrolled in MMCS115 Academic Cultures and Communication – a mandatory unit for a Bachelor of Media – I never expected it to be this goddamn awful.

Let me get straight into it. *cracks knuckles*

First of all, the lecture runs from 3-5pm each Friday afternoon, so you know there had better be a damn good reason for me to actually sit and listen to what is being said, because there are margaritas waiting for me at home which I am foregoing in order to be here.

Next, there are only lectures, no tutorials. This would be fine except that there is an expectation that you participate in group discussions and exercises each lecture. There are even activities that require you to stand up and walk around the lecture theatre. If you’ve been into the Lotus theatre, you know that this isn’t particularly easy considering all the bloody stairs, narrow walkways, and bags often flung carelessly between the seats, making it a near deadly task to get up and take a stroll across the other side of the room for a discussion amongst your peers. If this is supposed to be an interactive class then make it just that: a class, not a lecture with two hundred people.

The very first lecture we were asked to walk around to introduce ourselves to each other, which of course ended up just being a bunch of confused uni students awkwardly looking around at each other offering limp handshakes and pretending to remember each other’s names. In another lecture, slices of paper were stuck under random chairs in the theatre with pieces of quotes from a journal article printed on them, and students were asked to match them up with other people to form the full article. I suppose the exercise was meant to facilitate group discussion through interactive learning, but again, this is the kind of exercise that might work in a small classroom, not in a two-tiered theatre with hundreds of students.

It’s a fitting metaphor for the entire unit: disjointed, clumsy, and it makes absolutely no sense why I need to be doing this.

The unit content itself is kind of bizarre, and to be honest, even nine weeks in I’m still kind of unsure of what I’m supposed to be learning here. The learning outcomes in the unit guide range from developing an understanding of methods of communication in higher education, analysing academic contexts, and learning how to properly reference. But is this not something that every unit incorporates in their learning outcomes anyway?

One particular topic covered still confuses me, and that was when we were given a tutorial on how to use the library’s MultiSearch function to find academic texts. I’m not going to be arrogant here and suggest that MultiSearch is particularly easy to use, or that everyone should just know how to look for academic articles. But this all seems like fairly basic knowledge that is easy to acquire outside of a full lecture topic.

I’ll agree that these are all important aspects of tertiary education that every person needs to learn, but it seems frankly baffling to me that an entire unit is dedicated to something that every student will undertake in their very first university assessments. If the existence of this unit is suggesting these are not skills students will naturally acquire in other units, then perhaps the university needs to take a closer look at the wider curriculums that are being set, and that we are paying thousands of dollars for.

It’s a unit that doesn’t make sense, has offered me literally nothing in the way of providing new skills, has been nothing but a colossal waste of two hours of my Friday afternoon, and honestly the whole thing feels like a bit of a plug for the performing arts faculty, considering every week someone has come in to let us know that Macquarie has a performing arts faculty. I’m a proponent of the arts, but I know you did not just make me pay $800 for this unit just so you’d have a guaranteed audience each week. Macquarie, take this unit off the requisite list. It is not needed.

BUSL100: A New Low for MQ and Humankind (Words || Robert Rodriguez, Director of Spy Kids

A compulsory planet unit, BUSL100:  never really threatened to offer quality entertainment or a welcome reprieve from the Macquarie University classroom malaise that everyone can safely expect these days. But rules are rules – we all have to do them, and planet units can’t be from the same faculty as people units (was this always a thing?), so here we are. Barely two months into the unit though, I’m compelled to confine this excuse for tertiary education to Grapeshot’s ‘Shame Your Unit’ column. Global Legal Frameworks for a Sustainable Planet: hours upon hours of copyrighted material blanked from lecture recordings, hundreds of lecture slides littered with citations on Australian cities’ catastrophic hypothetical inundations, on seas of plastic waste flooding the oceans and on who owns the world’s forests.

I’m no climate change denier, and I’m not saying ‘who cares?’. But who’s going to care when brains are flooded by this kind of junk? Was this unit even designed to try and make us care, or even think? I don’t know, and I can’t tell – but we all know from the lectures that there’s no multiple-choice quiz in the unit because they’re “the enemy of understanding”. Okay, thanks.

Already scoring a high 8/10 on the ‘Macquarie Index’, the tutorials to date have taken BUSL100 out of the realm of regular disenfranchisement and onto the plane of a make-believe fantasy existence once only imagined in academics’ nightmares. Thirty minutes to mark the roll each week, from a total class time of 55 minutes. Expressions of fear from the locals, spanning the entire room, spanning the entire hour, at the risk of being asked how they feel about coal mining. Drawn, pale faces of overseas students shocked that Australian tertiary education has actually come to this. It’s the stuff of corporatised Macquarie legend.

It gets better. Week after week of roll calling, the few parcels of once-precious minutes and seconds remaining in each tutorial is dedicated to some of the most unbelievably absurd and outright saddening ‘debate’ flung from an iLearn link to a Word doc titled ‘Tutorial work for the entire unit’. One such debate, with the question, ‘Does Australia need to address climate change and global warming?’ saw the ‘no’ vote sweep the floor. Why? “Cos like, their points were like, good, and like, yeah.” Wise words from a colleague. Moments pass. Eyes flash furiously from right to left, scouting the horizons for any suggestion we can all leave early and somehow make sense of our university lives outside of this $1400-odd unit.

Where do we go from here? Most of us forget, some of us graduate. And one way or another, all of us leave this place. Who’s going to care when brains are flooded by this kind of junk? We all get charged for this rubbish and everybody’s pointing fingers before we drop out or move on. When we do, those of us that have experienced BUSL100 would have truly facepalmed for one entire semester at least. Stay well away.

SOC311: Social Order and Social Control (Words || Malfoy)

Three years into my Arts degree I find myself having to enrol in a unit called SOC311. Shit. It’s ‘Social Order and Social Control’…with a persom who I’ll call ‘Voldemort’ … shitfuckcrap. It’s okay. Breathe. There’s no way he’s a tutor for this unit. DAMMIT. He’s a bloody tutor … fantastic. Another 13 weeks of his yelling and cursing and unachievable expectations.

This unit is all about institutions, social orders and the social contract, etc. The content is super interesting and really engaging. Unfortunately it’s the teaching staff that let the unit down. If you would like to be treated like the adult that you are, shame, because it AIN’T GON’ HAPPEN! The lecturer gets his tutors to sit up the back and watch your laptop/device screens for anything that isn’t a note taking application. They then report back to him after class.

If you just HAPPEN to swap between applications on your device in a lecture and the lecturer can see it, you’ll get yelled at. If you stand up to leave his lecture before he’s ‘done’, you’ll be yelled at. Students were afraid to ask questions in the lecture and tutorials; people were genuinely scared to attend.

Drop out you say? Withdraw and save yourself the stress? No can do! It’s a required unit for a Criminology Major. I love how I have to pay $828.00 of my well-earned money for a shitty unit that causes me, and many other people, deep anxiety.

So many people failed this unit. So many people appealed, and then failed again. I guess as a direct result of that, you can see that the unit went through a bit of an overhaul after 2016 and got rid of ‘attendance and participation’ as an assessable itemm, which is a damn good thing if you think about it because if you didn’t have any clue what was going on in the lecture and were afraid to ask questions, back in 2016 you just had to suffer in the tutes; the tutorials left you feeling like you were the most stupid person that had ever walked this earth.

Now you can focus your stress purely on the group assignment instead!

The real problem with this unit is the unrealistic expectations forced upon us. You have to work your literal ass off just to get a pass. If you leave anything to the last minute you will fail. By no means is this a “challenge accepted” thing. DO NOT ACCEPT THE FUCKING CHALLENGE. You MUST stay on top of your work in this unit EVERY SINGLE DAY, otherwise you will be left so very far behind. This leads me to the group assignment.

HOLY SHIT IT IS A CLUSTER FUCK! You’re basically screwed from Day One if you get in a group with unmotivated people. But it’s not your fault, you can’t pick your own group; you have to go alphabetically. The amount of content and updates this assignment requires is incomprehensible. If I ever have to do a freaking ‘Wiki’ ever again, I’m dropping out. It’s not worth it.

The saving grace of this unit is the cursing and swearing. Voldy swears like an absolute sailor. Even to this day, whenever I need a little ‘pick-me-up’, I go to my iLearn account and listen to some old lectures where he just goes right off. Another godsend are the tutors – Just get a good one. To this day I still have eye-twitches whenever someone mentions ‘institutions’, or ‘social order’, or even when I hear Voldemort’s name! This is definitely a story for the grandkids.

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