With every new college semester, students are faced with multiple syllabuses outlining the subjects in their classes. But do students read them thoroughly? One Tennessee professor put it to the test.
Associate head of performing arts at the University of Tennessee, Kenyon Wilson, had decided to put an Easter egg in the syllabus for his music seminar class this past semester. A Tennessee university professor hid a cash prize on campus to see if his students fully read the class syllabus.
Music Professor decided to hide $50 in a random locker and bury the combination for the locker in the middle of his syllabus.
The hint read: “Thus (free to the first who claims; locker one hundred forty-seven; combination fifteen, twenty-five, thirty-five), students may be ineligible to make up classes and …”
This would have led students to a locker that contained a $50 bill, free to the first student to claim it. But at the end of the semester, when he went to check the locker, the bill was still there. This showed that none of his 70 students cracked the code.
“It an academic trope that no one reads the syllabus,” Wilson told CNN. “It’s analogous to the terms and conditions when you’re installing software, everyone clicks that they’ve read it when no one ever does.”
Wilson told CNN that his syllabus typically doesn’t change much, but with Covid protocols, there was some new information this time around.
“There’s a standard boilerplate that doesn’t change. But on the first day of class I told them there was stuff that had changed, and for them to make sure they read it,” Wilson added.
When Wilson put the reward in the locker, he left a note inside that read “Congrats! Please leave your name and date so I know who found it.” He was also sure to set the combination lock with a certain number in the noon position, to determine whether any students had tampered with the lock, but the combination was never even turned.
“I had great hopes, and I’d be just as happy having this conversation if one of my students found it on the first week,” Wilson told CNN.
Wilson’s Facebook post not only sparked a reaction from students but gave other professors and teachers around the nation an idea. “Perhaps spring 2022 will be the most well-read syllabi ever,” Wilson noted.