Making Peace With the Greeks

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The Chronicle for Higher Education


The Chronicle of Higher Education


Scanning the faces of my first-year composition students, I quickly saw that something was awry. Out of 22 students, 17 were men.

Clemson University, where I teach, does have more male than female students but the ratio didn't warrant that kind of discrepancy. Nor did my topic. This composition course was required across the board for undergraduates. So what had happened? I figured it was just a demographic fluke and handed out my syllabus.

After a few sessions, however, the rowdiness was more than I could handle. I like to have the occasional freewheeling moments in my class and I certainly appreciate discussion and interaction among students. But certain things in this class struck me as a little odd. Students were referring to each other by nicknames awfully early in the semester. By the third session I realized that students in one group were calling each other "JoeBob," "the Sweeeeeet" (to a student whose last name was, indeed "Sweet") and, inexplicably, "Wago-Pago."

It seemed odd that so many students in the class already felt so close and seemed to share so many inside jokes. While attendance seemed better than average and a lot of the boisterous behavior seemed to keep things in an upbeat mood, the cheers from the class every time I praised a comment became increasingly disconcerting.