IDS Columnist - May 21, 1998

Where IU went wrong
by Aaron Stevens
is a graduating senior studying Computer Information Systems.


As I have previously done in the Indiana Daily Student opinion page, I feel the need to deliver grief to the administration of Indiana University once more.

I began my college experience at Vanier College, a Quebec CEGEP (College d'enseignement general et professionnel) program. The purpose of CEGEP programs is to enable everyone who graduates high school (out of 11th grade) to experience a college environmen t before pursuing a bachelor's degree, and to weed out those who are not bachelor program material. The bright, capable, and industrious students continue on to bachelor degree programs, the professional program students begin careers, and the marginal st udents (those who flunk out) head into the cold, harsh real world.

Some of my memories of Vanier College include Dr. Leo W. Bertley, or "The Bertz" as some students called him, who taught the history of western civilization through reggae and calypso music. He stated on his syllabus, "The purpose of this course is to tea ch students how to think. This will be done in the context of History." He was and is a truly outstanding teacher, as was my political science guru, Ishwar Prashad. Ishwar's class involved an open discussion of the day's newspapers -- requiring students t o come to class prepared to think -- which he would begin with his characteristic "So, what do you want to talk about?"

But as I quickly learned teachers like The Bertz and Ishwar are few in number, and having taken every class each of them taught, I would have to move on to a greater challenge. In August of 1995, I visited IU and felt I had found that challenge. Despite S AT scores well within the acceptable range, and grades well above the average grades of Vanier College students, the folks at 300 North Jordan Ave. denied me admission, claiming my grade history inducted me into the realm of the inadmissible. You see, Van ier College does not practice grade inflation; perhaps IU misinterpreted my non-inflated grades as lack of academic potential.

When I started at Indiana, I intended to graduate in May of 2000, and expected a challenging experience in intellectual growth. I was wrong on both counts. With a handful of exceptions, the courses I have been required to take here have not been intellect ually challenging. Gimongous quantities of "cookbook" style repetition of examples and rote memorization of vocabulary, the core competencies of the Kelley School of Business undergraduate program, were not my expected instruments of challenge. Since the quality of the course work failed to stimulate me, I resorted to increasing the quantity (and working part time throughout my time here). Thus, I have completed nearly 60 credit hours a year, completing my bachelor's degree in around 22 months, with high distinction.

Completing my degree so quickly is not a function of intelligence -- those who know me will assure you to the contrary. Rather, the business school, and from what I've seen and been told, most of IU, teaches to the "least common denominator" of students, the bottom thirty percent. The lowest amongst these, the most marginal students, are those who would have been weeded out at Vanier College (an absolutely non-competitive school).

I believe responsibility for the shortcomings of my academic experience at Indiana rests with the administration. While the administration complains about low retention and graduation rates, the admissions office treats students as numbers, improperly adm itting the most marginal students while rejecting some of the better ones. Rampant grade inflation at IU cheapens all students' grades, a tendency caused by teachers who do not use the entire grading spectrum, A through F. Teachers do not use the entire g rading spectrum and are unable and unwilling to challenge students because they fear teacher evaluations; they know their jobs hinge on their evaluation scores, and students incorrectly equate high grades with good teaching.

Despite all my grievances, I will leave Indiana more enlightened than when I entered. I credit this learning to a handful of teachers who are not afraid to challenge students' intellect -- they know who they are -- and to my individual readings, mainly in the areas of business, law, physics, and history. Fortunately, I've found an exciting way to enhance my business skills while challenging myself in ways the School of Business never could -- I've taken up golf.

While I am leaving academia to begin work as a telecommunications analyst, I will undoubtedly return to school in the near future to pursue several more undergraduate and graduate degrees -- at least six more the way I figure it. For those who might think seven university degrees is unheard of, Dr. Bertley would tell them better. Perhaps he, and a few of my other Vanier College teachers, could teach the IU administration a thing or two about pedagogy.


1998 Indiana Daily Student