BERKELEY, Calif. – “What kind of class assigns a massive project to be due on the same day as the midterm?” asked Reddit user u/gobears4715 on the site’s premier college academia forum, r/Berkeley. Of course, however, Mr. u/gobears4715 was asking a purely hypothetical question. “I was going to complain about this in course evals, but then I realized that making a passive-aggressive anonymous post to enrage other students would yield better results,” he contended. And boy was he right. Within hours, his post received hundreds of upvotes, and by the next day, course staff had sent out a long apology email that included a project extension and extra office hours.
Similarly, intended computer science freshman John White made a post on the Facebook Group, Overheard at UC Berkeley, which he titled, “Overheard at Berkeley: Professor Not Granting Extensions for Hell Week at Kappa Sigma Epsilon.” In his post, White explained his situation, complete with screenshots of his emails with the professor. In accordance with Facebook’s rules, he blacked out the professor’s name but purposely did so in the lightest shade of black highlighter he could find when editing the screenshots on Snapchat so that everyone could still easily see which professor was responsible for his agony.
Their stories are far from unique. Increasingly, professors and students have begun turning away from more traditional, direct forms of communication like course evaluations, emails, or piazza posts to give and address course feedback. Instead, outlets like Overheard and Reddit allow for indirect, subtle messages that often leads to more substantial change. We reached out to the professors referenced in this article, but they declined to comment. However, shortly after we reached out, an anonymous post on Reddit went up titled, “Dying Student Publication Wastes my Time.”