IDS Columnist March 31, 1998

"More for my money"
An open letter to Kelley School of Business Dean Dan Dalton

Aaron Stevens
205 Wright Dewey Hall, Bloomington, Indiana 47406-1005

Dean Dan Dalton
Kelley School of Business
1309 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405-1701

Dean Dalton:

I am a soon-to-be-graduating senior in the Kelley School of Business and will be leaving Bloomington in June to begin full-time employment with a Big Six consulting firm. I began my education at IU in September 1996, and I feel after nearly two years, I can justifiably render an opinion on my experience here.

Let me begin by saying I have not been intellectually challenged at the School of Business. I came to IU after attending Vanier College, a Quebec CEGEP program (much like a junior college), which I left in search of a greater challenge. The greatest lesson I took with me when I left Montreal was college was supposed to teach individuals how to think. While an IU business education teaches a lot about what to think, I feel the School of Business neglects to teach students how to think. The School of Business is very good at teaching marketable skills but does not teach (and often outright discourages) critical or analytical thinking. Although these skills make business students much more employable than any other IU students, these same skills have a minuscule half-life. Knowing how to think is something that will never become outmoded.

It has been my experience, with few exceptions, that teachers do not challenge students. I remember one class in particular, a subject in which I was (and continue to be) particularly interested, where I introduced myself to the instructor on the first day of class, saying something to the effect of, "Hi, my name is Aaron, and I'm here to be challenged." The instructor's response was, "We can't really do that here; we have to cater to the least common denominator and cannot challenge individual students." Indeed, his words were a self-fulfilling prophecy of his class. Unfortunately, this experience was not a unique occurrence for me.

I have often discussed my need for challenge with several of my School of Business teachers. The responses I've had have all been about the same. Most instructors have told me the policy of the school is to teach at a level the most marginal student can comprehend. Essentially, they are saying anyone, regardless of talent, can succeed in the School of Business. Many instructors have told me if I wanted to be challenged, I should have gone to a school such as Wharton, Stanford or Harvard. This is very peculiar, considering U.S. News and World Report ranked the IU undergraduate business program fifth in the nation in 1997. From what I have seen and been told firsthand by my teachers, this school is not in the same league as those other business schools. Perhaps U.S. News and World Report needs to revise its rankings.

It appears the core competency of the School of Business is producing a large graduating class. At every step of the way, from entering freshmen to graduating seniors, the emphasis of the curriculum is to "get people through." To succeed at pushing students through in the quantity IU does, the School of Business has had to cut corners. Specifically, classes have been "dummied-up," grades have been inflated, and critical thinking and analysis have gone by the wayside to rote memorization and regurgitation. The curriculum has, in the case of many classes, become content-free.

Worse, in some classes, the actual material teachers are required to cover is content-free. Unwilling to challenge students, believing those students incapable to think critically about the material being treated, many instructors resort to the aforementioned dummying-up tactics. Their assignments are mindless busywork. Their exams are straight memorization. Some instructors even give away answers while exams are in progress. These teachers insult the intelligence of every single student in the School of Business.

The business curriculum has taken the thought process out of the educational experience, which, in turn, hurts students in the long run. My advice to business students is to demand more for their money. My advice to prospective business students is to ask themselves what they want to learn: marketable skills or how to think. Perhaps if students demanded to be intellectually challenged, to learn how to think, the administration would listen and adjust the curriculum, the course work and the teachers accordingly.

One of the greatest things I've learned from the School of Business is students are customers. We pay tuition money to the school (our supplier) in return for what we expect to receive in value. For many people, the value might simply be having a job when they graduate. For me, value for my money would be a challenge adequate to satisfy my intellect. Unfortunate to you, Dean Dalton, I've given up on expecting to be challenged here. I am a disgruntled customer, and when the time comes and I'm in the market for more education, I'll go to another supplier.

Restpectfully yours,
Aaron Stevens, class of 1998

P.S.: Wanting so very much to share this sentiment with the entire Indiana University community, I published this letter in the Indiana Daily Student on March 31, 1998.

1998 Indiana Daily Student