Southeast Missouri State University student publication

What goes into the choice of unassigned assigned seats? Imaginary seating charts in college

Tuesday, February 6, 2024
Graphic by Ben Schicker

It’s the first day of a new semester, and students show up early to get the best seat in the classroom.

Now, just about a month into the second semester, students have stayed in the same seat.

But why? It's not like there is a seating chart.

While there is no seating chart from the professor, but there is an unwritten rule of the unassigned assigned seat.

According to Urban Dictionary, “it is a seat in class (most often a college class) that you normally sit in all the time; so much so that it practically belongs to you.”

But what creates the pattern of the unassigned assigned seating? Is it out of routine? Comfortability? Possibly different learning habits?

SEMO student and library assistant Ashley Weinhold said that routine is one of the reasons why she likes to keep the same seat.

“It definitely feels off-putting when someone is in the seat that I usually sit in,” Weinhold said. “Routine plays a big role in keeping the same seat throughout the length of a semester.”

Weinhold added by saying the layout of the classroom has to do with how she will establish which seat she wants.

“I always try to find a seat next to a window in the middle row,” Weinhold said. “ It’s nice to look outside sometimes to take a break from what's going on.”

While everybody has a different reason for their choice of seat, certain studies show why the choice is so important.

Chairperson for the Department of Psychology and Counseling Melissa Odegard referred to a study from 2017, taking a deeper dive into the choice of seat.

“Settling into the same seat can be interpreted as a strategy to establish personal territory, according to a study by Clement and Buckley, 2017,” Odegard said.

Odegard added to this research by suggesting that humans are creatures of habit and seek out comfort versus discomfort.

There are many different reasons for the choice of seat, and sometimes students have situations that force them to sit in certain places around the classroom.

Chairperson for the Department of Mass Media, Dr. Tamara Buck, said students have numerous reasons for sitting in specific spots around the classroom.

“People claim their territory and sometimes for different reasons,” Buck said. “Whether they hear better out of one ear or need to sit up front to see.”

Buck said that Strategy also has a lot to do with how some students find their seats in the classroom.

“Students who are not used to being seen in the classroom, will fade to the background,” Buck said. “Some students want to get next to the person who is more aggressive because that will make them either work harder or less visible.”

In the classroom, the seat which students select not only shapes the learning experience but also plays an important role in maintaining a productive environment.