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“Wait… you still have group projects in college?”

Apparently, yes. My brother was just as shocked as I was. A lot of professors, for some ungodly reason, believe that group projects are a valid way to assess the learning and mastery of their adult students. But why do they believe this? Have we not learned from the past 12 years of school that all group projects result in is incredible stress for one or two group members, as they exert every ounce of effort in their already stressed bodies toward picking up the slack of the other, now strongly disliked group members? Because it’s about time we learn.

One of the most common excuses I hear from professors for assigning group projects is that they teach cooperation, a necessary skill in the workplace. But riddle me this: if you haven’t already learned how to cooperate by the time you’re in college, will you ever? I highly, highly doubt it. And do you know what happens to people who don’t cooperate or carry their weight in projects in the real workplace?

That’s right. They get fired. They simply don’t have a job anymore.

I don’t mean to sound jaded or cynical, as I write this. I just want to emphasize that group projects are of virtually no benefit at all to anyone involved in the project (except the professor, who has fewer projects to grade than if everyone did one individually), and they are a very real detriment to the group members who do not only their work, but the work of other group members who are slacking. There’s no “cooperation” or “teambuilding” being learned…trust me.

I understand that every once in a blue moon, you get lucky. People are relatively on top of their game, meet deadlines and put in a reasonable amount of work on their end. But in my experience, that is so, so rare.

And I think I know why it’s so rare; people know they can get away with it, just like they have been doing for all of elementary, middle and high school because, somehow, some way, there are many teachers who have decided not to grade students based on their individual performance within a group, but rather to give the group one collective grade. This means the slackers get a grade bump for doing and learning absolutely nothing, and the kids that work hard get punished, even though they had to put in more work than they would have if they didn’t have slacker group mates. I heard someone say recently that if you got excited instead of frustrated when the teacher announced group work, you were probably the problem in the group… and I hate to say it, but I think that might be true. To some people, “group work” equates to “free ride”. To the rest of us it means “babysitting your peers”.

Now that I’ve managed to make myself sound like a full-on uncharitable grump, let me assure you that I’m not completely immovable. I know life happens and sometimes deadlines can’t always be met. All I ask is that group members communicate when they don’t think they’ll be able to meet a deadline; they should let the rest of the group know what’s going on. I’m not completely unreasonable. I’m just very, very tired of being taken advantage of during group work. It’s all completely unfair, and I don’t want to be anyone’s workhorse anymore. I have a life too, you know? Don’t pile all of your responsibilities on me.

Anyway, can you tell I’ve had a lot of group projects, this semester?

Emily Stellman

Chapel Hill '21

Emily is an aspiring author that studies English and Comparative Literature at UNC. She is also minoring in History and hopes to one day become a lawyer or work in a museum. Her interests include music, doting on her pets and all things Disney!
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