Trials and tribulations of group projects

By on November 21, 2002

As the semester comes to close, students fearfully look ahead to finals. Finals are cruel, unusual methods of determining absurd things like if you went to the lectures or did all the required reading.
These two wholly unrealistic academic measures can often lead students to “pull an all-nighter.” Pulling an “all-nighter” is like pulling a groin, only more painful.
I had a friend at an unnamed Ivy League school in New Haven that begins with a “Y” and ends with “ale,” who liked to pull all-nighters. His drink of choice was a tall glass of quadruple espresso with four sweet and tangy No-Doze pills stirred in. He claimed it could keep a person up for 48 hours, but reminded me it was “close” to a lethal level of caffeine.
A lethal dose of caffeine is ten grams administered orally. This raises two interesting questions: how else would one ingest caffeine other than orally, and could I get an IV with coffee? In case you were wondering, about one hundred cups of coffee or 50 No-Doze pills is the practical equivalent of ten grams of caffeine.
Without hesitation, the worse variety of finals is group projects.
Group projects can teach valuable life lessons. Lessons like: never in the history of mankind has there been peace on earth or in a group project and unrepentant evil must not go unpunished.
Some of life’s greatest lessons and morals are touched on in any group project. Here is why these seemingly odd and unconnected morals and lessons can rear their ugly heads.
Delving into the cosmology of most group projects we find two students: the serious student and the slacker. Often the student in the group concerned with his or her grades and how the class fits in with his or her five-year plan is rapidly turned against the student in the group concerned with spring break and five cent drafts.
The more scholarly of the two genuinely cares about the grade that will be eternally carved on his or her transcript and the projects overall quality. Typically, this student does 95 percent of the work on the project.
The other student, who’s five year plan includes three solid years of sleeping and eating followed by two years of hibernation, is more interested in spilling bong water and beer all over his portion of the project, because “that would be awesome!”
This slacker knows he or she doesn’t need to put any real effort into the project, because in the end, it doesn’t really matter.
The group project turns out okay nine out of ten times, because the pull from the student who cares too much is inversely proportional to the drag created by the student who does not care at all.
Without fail, the serious student in the group ends up guzzling quadruple espressos and devoting two consecutive all-nighters to finish the work of his or her group mates.
The serious student does this even though his or her portion of the project was done weeks in advance. During those weeks, her or she sent multiple emails and tried to get the group members together to finalize the project, but the other students could not make it to the library, because it was five-cent draft night at The Tavern.
Getting to the end result of this project could be disastrous for both the serious student and the slacker. After all, the serious student could loose it, go crazy and kill his or her group mates.
When considering most juries would find the professor who assigned the group project as an accessory to murder, this would certainly be disastrous for all parties involved.
I’d like to believe the real world has more people who care about the work they are doing. Most respectable companies have an interview process. Part of that process includes some form of written application or resume. This weeds out the majority of people who think spilling bong water on important documents is “awesome.”
In most firms, group work is paramount. Teams work together for an end result. Group projects can certainly have their negatives, but as long as everyone is willing to put aside their petty differences, then there can finally be peace on earth and in group projects.
If you prefer group projects to traditional finals, write a letter to an unnamed college president that starts with a “J” and ends with “ohn Lahey” and tell him, “What this school needs is more group projects.”
On second thought, you’ll probably spill something on it. That would be awesome.


About Eric Marrapodi