Every college student knows that the first day of classes normally involves the distribution of the semester’s syllabus outlining important deadlines and dates. With full knowledge that most students rarely thoroughly read through them, one professor in Tennessee tested to see if anyone would give his syllabus the same attention he gave it.
Kenyon Wilson is the associate head of performing arts at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and tucked away a little token within his syllabus to reward the first student to read his syllabus all the way through. It read: “Thus (free to the first who claims; locker one hundred forty-seven; combination fifteen, twenty-five, thirty-five), students may be ineligible to make up classes and …”
The first student to have found the secret message and sought out the locker would have been rewarded with a $50 bill. Unfortunately, the message was never found, and the $50 bill was still in the locker when Professor Wilson went and checked at the conclusion of the semester.
“It’s an academic trope that no one reads the syllabus,” Wilson told CNN. “It’s analogous to the terms and conditions when you’re installing software, everyone clicks that they’ve read it when no one ever does.”
Seventy-one students were enrolled in the course, and most are aware that the syllabus doesn’t change much. COVID protocols forced Wilson to include some new information, which prompted his wanting to test his students. Haley Decker, a recent graduate from the university, was a student of Wilson’s for 3 and a half years and was one of many who failed to find the Easter egg in the syllabus.
“I honestly thought it was hilarious,” she told CNN. “This class typically is the same format every semester, so students know what to expect and don’t take the time to read the syllabus like we should. I think this was a really smart experiment for Dr. Wilson to test out,” Decker said. “It definitely made the music students realize that despite repetitive information you should still read through your syllabus carefully.”
Professor Wilson notes that it was all in good fun. “I know my students read, and I don’t expect them to religiously go through word-by-word but if they did, I wanted to reward them,” he told CNN.
“Everyone was guilty of having absolutely no idea it was there,” said Decker. “We all admitted we briefly skimmed that part of the syllabus because that policy is in every syllabus for every class you take.”
The stunt took off across social media, sparking reactions from students and professors all around the nation. “Perhaps Spring 2022 will be the most well-read syllabi ever,” Wilson quipped.