In defense of the terrible GSI

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Caragh McErlean/File

A good GSI can make or break a course. Those MVPs that scour the world wide web and scan books for hours in order to upload course materials to bCourses are the heroes of this generation. The money that they save us and the time they sacrifice is truly a gift and we’re unworthy. The best GSIs can make a complicated subject simple and a research paper palatable.

Unfortunately, they can’t all be superstars. It pains us to admit that there are, in fact, some truly terrible GSIs out there. The ones who unnecessarily complicate the course material and flounder to answer straightforward questions are far from stellar. Or those GSIs that have us write our own discussion questions because heavens knows they can’t create their own. These are all clear signs that your GSI doesn’t have your back. Don’t even get us started on cold calling and required essays for section.

We should be patient with the weaker links. While it’s certainly easy to insult them and wish dishonor upon their cow, we need to cut them some slack.

For starters, UC Berkeley students are kind of savage. Our unhealthy obsession with good grades makes us absolute sharks when it comes to grading. Hell hath no fury quite like a jilted student denied of partial credit. The audacity we have when it comes to arguing for a bonus point can be straight up brazen during midterm season. 

We often forget that GSIs are students, too. We like to think that enlightening us is their sole purpose in life when, in reality we’re actually just their side piece. They have their own classes, papers and readings to worry about. If our own experience as students has taught us anything, it’s that school can really take it out of you. The monotonous day in and day out of the eternal grind makes it difficult to be the best versions of ourselves. We understand if they can’t bring their A-game to teaching every day.  

Our lack of enthusiasm certainly doesn’t add to the situation. The way we unsubtly scroll through Twitter during section is far from a boost of confidence for our poor GSI. We’ll occasionally throw them a bone with a half-hearted interjection about how the topic at hand is ‘really interesting’ for the sake of our participation grade. Other than that, we leave them to suffer in their sea of unanswered questions amidst an awkward silence that would even make Megyn Kelly uncomfortable. 

The next time you’re ready to rail on your GSI for taking three weeks to grade a midterm, remind yourself that they’re probably doing the best they can. So just cut them some slack and forgive them for being human.

Contact Amanda Chung at [email protected].