Oh, the people you’ll meet in your discussion section! Yep, they pretty much all suck. Within this strange, academically constructed space, one can always look forward to the serene silence that follows discussion questions the TA poses to the entire class, or the stilted small talk that occurs among the group your TA randomly placed you in once no one has anything more to offer about the use of phallic imagery in “Paradise Lost”. To the UCLA student in their first quarter or last, this guide represents your best chance of discussion section survival by meticulously cataloguing some of the foulest beasts inhabiting it.
The I Volunteer (You) As Tribute: When working in small groups, this fiend will promise to present the team’s findings to the class, and then gleefully reverse-Hunger Games you when instead they volunteer you as designated group speaker when the TA calls on your group. Stammer, stumble, and generalize your way through, because The I Volunteer (You) As Tribute will delight in every second of it.
The Mime: Is The Mime mute, doing performance art, or in the midst of a nervous breakdown? The choice is unclear, but their lack of communication is crystal. When your TA breaks you into pairs of two, this being’s power of unease reaches its zenith when they will refuse to answer your question about their thoughts on a passage or even the courtesy “what is your major” question when discussion subsides. The Mime may have a perfect poker face, yet underneath this façade, this animal cackles in glee at your discomfort
The Soliloquist: You may muse upon entering your classroom if you instead have wandered into the middle of a Shakespeare Theater Company production. You haven’t, but The Soliloquist seems to think you have. This silver-tongued monologist cannot seem to stop offering their long-winded comments, but never seems to make an actual point. Although this creature strives to wax poetic, the students surrounding them only wish to have wax shoved in their ears.
The Romeo: A close relative of The Soliloquist, The Romeo will transform the rest of the student population into a super-sized third wheel. In between offering to bring in Romantic poetry to read and mulling over what picnic items to bring to the next office hours, this beast has a fervent passion for your TA and isn’t afraid to show it, or declare it openly. When The Romeo begins starting one-on-one conversations with the TA in the middle of a large group discussion, it may be time to exit and take some of their store-bought chocolate on the TA’s desk on the way out.
The Walking Dictionary: Floccinaucinihilipilification. Honorificabilitudinitatibus. Pseudopseudohypoparathyrodism. You know these are actual English words because you looked them up after class when this monster casually broke them out when the TA asked the class what time it was. The Walking Dictionary will have no qualms about calling you a spleeny, rump-fed pignut when you say something dumb in section, mostly because they know you won’t understand the insult until hours later when you worriedly consult a physical copy of the dictionary.
Illustrations by Sarita Zed-Schreiber