In Bold Step, WhatsApp and SIPA Upend Higher Education

TMP Note: This is a satirical article. The names are all fictional and the associated links will take you to where this author got them... 

By SIPA Pundit

Citing the explosive growth in downloads among SIPA students, WhatsApp is announcing a new partnership with Columbia University to replace classes with group chats for the 2018-19 school year. The partnership will make Columbia the first major American university to abandon the traditional model of classroom learning.

With such a large percentage of students already using laptops and phones to text during class, Columbia maintains overall changes will be minimal. Professors will upload pre-written lecture notes to WhatsApp prior to class, whereupon students will still meet in designated classrooms and discuss the material over chats. To ensure free speech and inclusiveness, talking in class will be banned and students will be forbidden from muting WhatsApp groups between 9am-9pm daily.

Supporters, many of whom are first-year students, hailed the partnership as a revolution. "I'm pleased" said Elissa Grant, first-year from Ohio. "All of my new friends are already on WhatsApp--they share their birthdays, their weekend plans, their weeknight plans, their campaigns, their complaints, news articles, and thinly-sourced opinions on local bars and restaurants. At this point, it makes sense to share my graduate education there, too."

Others, such as first-year Jordi Farragut from Spain, believe the WhatsApp platform is ideally suited for replacing the classroom environment. "I mean, there are 40 people in one of my chats, and only 6 of us ever talk. How is that different from a lecture?"

Professors, on the whole, are resigned to the change. "I'm not an idiot. I know everybody with a laptop open in my class is on Facebook" said Prof. Julia W. Howe. "Logically, this was where we were always headed." Alluding to the current political environment, Prof. Howe added “it’s hilarious to think there will even be a 2019, anyway.”

Others are more skeptical of this change. First and foremost are parents, many of whom are already concerned that their children are foregoing lucrative careers in law or business to become underpaid civil servants. One set of parents, who chose to remain anonymous out of respect for their daughter, emailed the Post with this statement. "We loved our daughter enough to let her enter a lifetime of debt. But we draw the line at learning through emojis and gifs. She will not be welcome home for Thanksgiving, and all future communication with her will be handled through our attorney.”

Select students are expressing outrage privately, arguing that the change merely exacerbates problems on the WhatsApp platform. One Technology, Media, and Communications student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to be candid, noted that WhatsApp is, actually, “bad”. "It acts just like the internet. Everybody starts using it with good intentions, but once enough people join, it becomes a cesspool for unsolicited thoughts." The student further cited research from prominent academic institutions and think tanks that group chats have rapidly negative utility with nine or more members.

They added that this culture of oversharing makes at least a modicum of sense on the Internet, where unlike on WhatsApp, people can remain anonymous. "It astounds me that people are posting all of these bad takes and putting their name on them. Like, I can find men complaining about sexual assault compliance on literally any website. Why do I have to read that here in order to make Happy Hour plans for next Thursday?"

Despite the criticism from a vocal minority, SIPA is carrying on with the WhatsApp transition for the 2018-19 school year. Seeking to reassure students, the administration noted "an annoying and childish command of social media is essential for success, particularly at the highest levels of government. We look forward to giving our students the best possible preparation for a lifetime of public service."