Continuation of yesterday's discussion of Department Seminar Attendance
If attendance at department seminars is required, should students get academic credit or should they get cosmic credit and a warm/fuzzy feeling of intellectual stimulation even if of the coerced sort?
Students should get academic credit for seminar attendance if it benefits their academic program to do so. In some cases, adding an extra credit or two can be can be helpful, but in other cases it is a problem. Attending seminars takes time, and if the intention of requiring mandatory attendance is to provide an educational experience, students should get some credit for that time if possible. The action of sitting in a chair in a room while a seminar is occurring is probably worth about 1 credit at a typical American university. [Some programs require more than just attendance; I will discuss this tomorrow]
In systems in which awarding academic credit is either not done or is not feasible, it may well be that mandatory seminar attendance cannot be enforced in any sane way. Even so, a department's philosophy and/or regulations regarding seminar attendance should be clearly stated to new students so that everyone knows what the expectations are and how these are to be met.
Department seminars -- whether mandatory or not -- should be during typical daytime/weekday hours. [I feel another poll coming on... but not today .. about what is the best day/time for seminars]
When I have been in departments in which seminar attendance is not required or is only required of first/second year grad students, most of my students attend regularly anyway, as do I. If attendance at seminars is recognized as important by faculty advisors, their students are probably more likely to attend as well.
The department chair can also send a strong message that seminars are important educational experiences (for everyone) and are a way that a department demonstrates that it is an interesting, interactive place. If budgets permit (and they may soon not permit), bringing in outside speakers is a way to advertise what is going on in a department. This can be very important for the general reputation of the department, and can therefore benefit all department members.
If I show up to give an invited talk at a university and the seminar room is filled with people asking questions, I will have a positive impression of that place as an intellectually stimulating place filled with energetic and curious people. If there are only a few sleepy people in the room, it will certainly not occur to me that I am boring or that my research topic is unappealing. Well, it might occur to me briefly, but I will then nevertheless conclude that the place is an intellectual desert and I will wonder why I was even invited if only one person wanted to hear my talk.
Summary: Attend as many seminars as you can. If students can get academic credit, that's good, but whether or not academic credit is bestowed, in the long run the cosmic credit may well be worth much much more.
10 months ago