Open The Gates 

By: Atara Bachrach  |  November 18, 2021

By Atara Bachrach, Website Manager

I’ve always been in absolute awe of note-takers. You know those people who go to every class, pay full attention, and write down what the teacher says from start to finish? Amazing. I wish I could say that about myself. If I’m being honest, note-taking is something I’ve actually struggled with for as long as I can remember. It’s not that I don’t care, or can’t be bothered – but as someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), my brain finds it difficult to focus on one thing for too long, and class is no exception.

I’m not ashamed to admit that my note-taking peers are pretty much the only reason I didn’t fail out of high school or fear for my grades. The idea that I might not receive notes for a class, and do poorly because of it, was never really something I had to worry about. Until college, that is, when I learned a new word from my fellow students: gatekeeping. As per Google, the definition of a gatekeeper is “one who controls or limits access to something:” kind of like TSA workers in the airport, or those red-coated soldier guys who walk around Buckingham Palace in fluffy hats. And not unlike these matters of national security, note-sharing is not without its gatekeepers. 

I understand that when someone works hard for their notes, it’s supremely frustrating when someone chooses to mooch off their effort. I mean, maybe a deal could have been made before school started and everyone could’ve created some kind of sharing or trading system for notes in class, or even taken turns writing them. But instead, if you took those notes, it seems like someone chose to slack off completely and then rely on you last minute to provide you with the resources you need to do well on this upcoming test. That might bother you. Those notes are probably like your “baby,” and to just give them away? Just like that? To watch someone else use what you painstakingly worked on for many weeks and end up with the same – potentially better – grades as you? It’s probably the worst. As it should be! It’s annoying, and it’s very close to, if not genuinely, considered being taken advantage of.

So what do you do? What happens when a student puts in time and effort to take notes in class and finals season hits: do they share with the ‘slackers’? 

Well first, I think we have to ask ourselves why we even take notes in the first place. Most people would probably say it’s so that we can study, do well on exams, and hopefully keep our grade point averages (GPA) up. If that’s true, then the real reason we take notes is as a favor to our future selves. We need notes because it will ultimately help us in the long run. But the real question is: once you have those notes, will sharing them really have a negative impact on that vision? 

I’ve given a lot of thought to this question to try and get to the root of why people might not like to share their notes. All my personal observations have led me to think that ultimately, the real reason we don’t like sharing notes is because… we’re jealous. Well, maybe jealous isn’t the right word. More like innately competitive. 

If society has succeeded at one thing, it’s been to consistently infiltrate our minds with the idea that we’re just not good enough. As we grow up, this ideology only continues to evolve, inculcating this massive drive for competition and leaving us with this internalized need to always be better. We’ve developed this idea that our own success isn’t real unless compared to the successes of others. Now, in retrospect, I think we can all probably agree that that’s not true. “Success” is entirely subjective, and what might be considered a complete success for one person might be perceived as a massive failure to another. We clearly must have learned somewhere, somehow, that unless we did better than someone else, we didn’t really do well at all. Because “well” doesn’t mean well anymore. It means better

But excelling doesn’t have to come at the cost of our compassion. It might be exasperating to watch someone else get away with doing less work, but now that you’re here and they’re asking for your help, is there a real reason to say no? We never know what’s going on in someone else’s life or inside their head. And even if we did, we would still share with each other because… we’re here together. And we’re all here for the same thing. We’re just trying to survive our classes with decent grades to obtain our future goals. We’re not here to teach our peers a lesson.  

Who are we to decide who does or does not deserve help? Do we possess enough knowledge to pass judgment on our peers? We’ve been raised to work hard, but also be kind and helpful to those less fortunate than ourselves, and honestly, it can be really easy to help those in need. In college, that can mean assisting those with learning difficulties. However, the bigger challenge arises when faced with helping those who might not seem to need or deserve our help. This of course doesn’t mean you have to share with them. But wouldn’t it make you a kinder person and this world a better place if you helped them anyways? 

We’re all here to give ourselves good options for the future. If I find myself in a situation with an opportunity to help someone, even if they appear rude and maybe slightly selfish for asking, I will help them if I can. Obviously it’s not necessarily going to feel good, but in my opinion, if helping you doesn’t hurt me, I don’t really have a good excuse not to do it. 

One of the main values of this school – and please don’t tell me you haven’t noticed those giant multicolored banners sitting everywhere on campus – is chesed [kindness]. This is the kind of atmosphere that we are supposed to be creating and nurturing in Yeshiva University: one in which we can avoid judgment and just act with more compassion.

I’m not here to judge or tell you what to do. I’m not suggesting you share notes with anyone who asks – I get it. No one is excited to share notes with someone who didn’t show up to class. Maybe now, the next time you’re reluctant to share notes, you might think about this article and ask yourself: What’s the real reason I don’t want to share? Will it really hurt me? And most importantly: am I really in a position to decide who deserves compassion? 

In my opinion, there’s no harm in a little extra kindness.