But every assembly speaker deserves the respect we afforded Thursday’s speaker, if not more. Incredibly, there was still some talking during the story of how one man saved 1,268 people from genocide.
But there was far less talking, texting, studying and sleeping in this recent assembly than there was the week before, when the president of a major university spoke to us.
We don’t all aspire to be Civil War historians. In fact, juniors were still embroiled in the tensions of the antebellum era, and sophomores were still 200 years and a continent away from the subject when we had that assembly. Seniors, meanwhile, had likely not considered the topic since their June final exams.
However, none of that excuses the blatant disrespect shown towards someone who had taken time out of his life to come and speak to us. And it’s a problem not unique to Edward Ayers.
In a Chronicle poll, 71 percent of the students surveyed think people act disrespectfully in assemblies, while 85 percent said they had seen people texting, 71 percent had seen people sleeping and 66 percent had seen people studying.
As a solution, a number of survey responses suggested making assemblies optional. The impulse behind this desire is understandable. Not every student is going to be interested in every assembly, and with free time being the commodity that it is around here, many students would likely opt for that hour of free time. But the past two weeks where we had assemblies each week were anomalies; speakers usually come once every two months, if that. The administration told the faculty that Rusesabagina was the last speaker of the semester.
Assemblies are meant to supplement our in-class education, and because of the vastness of the Harvard-Westlake network, we are exposed to an extraordinary array of people. If assemblies were optional, students would likely not attend those that did not immediately appeal to them. In doing so, they would miss the chance to experience what could very well be the most meaningful and educational hours of their week, month or even year.
And, if that’s not the case, it’s just an hour of your life. If you don’t want to listen, don’t be rude. All you need to do is stay silent, drift off into your own thoughts and study the championship banners on the walls. At the very least, our school has been successful enough athletically to keep us respectful for 60 minutes.