A singular experience

Whenever we hear the word “group,” we automatically let out a sigh of relief and scream, “Yes! Less work for me!” Our insides melt, and we experience a sense of euphoria like no other (okay, that may or may not have been a grandiose exaggeration, but you catch my drift).  All in all, at this point, the idea of working in a group doesn’t sound too shabby. You may respond by saying that, well, sure, that sounds reasonable, considering working alone is no fun anyway. Or so you think. Try thinking again.

Typically, group projects are infamous for thrusting responsibility and work onto one student while the remaining members of the group simply kick it in the back seat, so to speak, and enjoy the free ride. Hold up, though: don’t misinterpret that statement. If you’re that one student, the ride isn’t free for you. Hate to break it to you, but the ride (for you at least) doesn’t come cheap. You’re basically the chauffeur but only worse because you don’t even get paid for your charitable services. Now what kind of messed up system is that?

At this stage in the game, you might want to consider whipping out a membership fee because, let’s be real, you should be compensated for your services. Mazel tov – you deserve it. Try to focus on the compensation – after all, it’s why you consented to this group project business in the first place.  Might as well benefit from this seriously flawed system that ostensibly champions “equal division of work,” right? When you’re rich and famous from this enterprise, just make sure you give me some credit during your lengthy “Thank you, Mom and Dad” speech. You might even throw in some moolah if you so desire – but, then again, just a suggestion. No pressure.

When you truly make it big (we’re talking Forbes Top 100 here), and you’re really feeling like a saint, then you can even donate your proceeds to research aimed at providing a cure for what I like to call “group project syndrome,” aka the collection of signs and symptoms that are observed in, and characteristic of, individuals who suffer from traumatic, and sometimes even violent, group project experiences. Speaking from experience, this syndrome can be self-diagnosed. Too bad Advil can’t cure it, though.

With your newly garnered and enhanced understanding of the word, let’s come full circle here. The next time your chemistry professor says, “Separate into groups. You will divide the work equally amongst yourselves,” that’s your signal to stop, drop and roll/get out/run/transfer/emigrate/change your name/move to a foreign country – you name it. As the young LiLo once said, “The limit does not exist.” So do what you need to do to survive in this dog-eat-dog world of group projects.

Drop the class. Or transfer. You decide. However, the inevitability of the group project fallacy will probably follow you everywhere you go. Yes, this is true, even if you try to pull a Snowden and seek solace in Russia. Unlike this traitorous rogue, you can’t outrun this one.

Essentially, if you were wondering, the take-away message is that group projects are arguably more corrupt and all-consuming than international politics. Even Hillary would have to agree on that one.

But, hey, college is supposed to be about trying new things, right? Going along with this mentality, if you’re not totally repelled by the idea of group projects thus far, then I say give it a go. For you prospective science majors out there, three words: trial and error. Explore uncharted waters (just please, don’t drown).

With that being said, try not to Eph up the group dynamic. Keep an open mind and a closed fist (you never know when things might get rough). Who knows, though? You may even discover that you actually enjoy slaving over a project for hours at a time. Kudos to you if you’re that kind of person. Shout-out to all of you who fall under that category. “Welcome to the island of misfit toys.”

To sum things up, if ever confronted by the assignment of a group project by your teacher (which probably will occur at one point or another, unless you heeded my earlier advice and actually crossed the border), my advice to you is to be upfront with your group mates and stress cooperation. Take charge and wear the pants. In other words, carry a big stick. Yes, sometimes this WILL require force (kidding).

Hayley Tartell ’18 is from  Miami, Fla. She lives in Williams Hall.

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