Opportunity and guilt

Feb. 7, 2019, 1:00 a.m.

There are two types of lectures in this world: the type where you can sit comfortably next to your friends and listen to the day’s lesson, and the type where you feel like you are holding your breath the entire time as you furiously try to write down what is on the board. It usually does not take more than a few seconds to classify a lecture as one or the other, so as I sat in one of my classes at the start of this quarter, I knew I was in for some intense note-taking sessions over the coming weeks.

In a way, I was grateful. The stress meant that I would have to be awake each day when I walked into class and pay attention for the entirety of the lesson. There was just one problem. As I pulled out my laptop to start writing down the days topics, my professor announced that the class had a no technology policy during class.

As a student registered with the Office of Accessible Education, I am approved to use my assistive technology in the classroom to gain access to the visual information presented on the board as well as to compensate for my inability to take handwritten notes. For this reason, when I heard about this no technology policy, I knew that it would not apply to me because of my circumstances. As other students reluctantly closed their waiting Word documents and tucked their computers away, I kept mine out, all too aware of the eyes on me as I typed out a header on my document.

Although I knew that I was breaking zero rules by having my device out, I couldn’t help the discomfort that accompanies being the only student allowed to use my electronics during class. I started to feel guilty for the solitary sound of my clicking keys among the scratches of pens on paper, and I questioned if I really needed to use my computer during lessons.

I came to realize that this guilt of having access to resources that others do not is not unique to my situation. As Stanford students, many of us question why we were chosen to be part of this community and how we will be able to contribute to the wealth of knowledge and talent that occupies every corner of the campus. It is easy to feel guilty for the days where we zone out during class or do not finish our homework because maybe someone else would better utilize the resources that are only available to us.

The solution I have discovered is not to dwell on the question of why opportunities are given to us but to make the most of what we have. The reality is that I need my technology to have equal opportunity in the classroom, and to sacrifice that would be to settle for less than my peers. Similarly, feeling guilty for the opportunity we have been given to study in such an enriching setting is sacrificing energy that we could be putting towards maximizing our time on campus. I am learning to be confident in the rights and privileges I have to do my best work, and I hope that by focusing on my personal growth, I can join the greater effort on campus to leave our community better than we found it.


Contact Trisha Kulkarni at trishak8 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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