Feelings of anonymity amongst Laurier students remains a pressing matter


Photo by Luke Sarazin

With a new semester comes new courses and new professors. And with that, new feelings of anonymity — the feeling of being anonymous in the classroom.

Although some of the content from our courses from last semester may have slipped our minds, they still have the opportunity to impact us and even teach us a lesson.

Last semester, in a first-year global studies class taught by Ali Hassan Zaidi, associate professor in the department of global studies and coordinator of the Muslim studies option, many students swiftly left the lecture hall as soon as an iClicker quiz was over, even though the class was not over.

After the lecture, a few students went to speak to Zaidi, particularly to express that they thought it was very disrespectful of the students to leave.

While similar events had occurred in many of his previous classes, he decided to reach out via email that night, after deciding that staying silent was no longer benefiting him nor the university.

The email became a major point of discussion among students in the class and multiple references to it were seen on the Spotted at Laurier Twitter page. In the email, Zaidi stated that he understands that the people that did leave, did so because they felt protected by their anonymity.

Even on a small campus like ours, it’s easy to feel anonymous, especially in larger classes. This culture of anonymity is threatening our community, and many students are feeling it.

“One of the sad things that I learned … is that some students have told me that some professors actually do treat them like a number and they come to see themselves as an anonymous person … even in small classes with only 30 students,” said Zaidi.

If we’re just here to learn, then how will these feelings of anonymity affect us?

A university culture that promotes this can be more dangerous to individuals and the community than realized. Students need to feel connected to their university, their peers and their professors if they want their education to be meaningful.

Both faculty and students have an important role in fighting anonymity. Zaidi urges professors to adopt interactive technology or perhaps a discussion forum on MyLearningSpace, both of which he used in GS101.

“Students also have a part to play in trying to overcome that anonymity,” Zaidi said.

“They have to also recognize the sense of community and treat it like a community.”

When a student does something such as leave a lecture hall while class is still going on, they’re comfortable to do so because they feel anonymous and therefore they’re contributing to this culture.

Not only are feelings of anonymity hurting a student’s education, but they have the ability to impact them for years to come.

“In the end, long after you’ve left Laurier, it’ll be the human connections that’ll matter,” Zaidi said, completing his email.

“Five years after you graduate you won’t remember many of the theories and concepts that you learned here. But you will remember how you were treated. I hope you will be treated with dignity, recognition, respect and kindness. And I hope you will do likewise.”

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