Society’s expectation for students is to go to college for four years, apply for an internship, get a job, and work. And if life was was that simple, all would be well. But the reality is that everyone has his/her own issues, and unforeseen circumstances routinely arise. College is a lengthy, expensive process that everyone experiences differently.
For myself, I always knew where I wanted to go and wanted to be. And for the most part, I had an execution plan.
During my time at Hofstra University, I stumbled upon a media opportunity with Siruis XM for the recent Los Angeles-hosted Super Bowl. I told my sports reporting professor that I would be missing class due to work, and I offered to make up the work in advance.
He curtly responded: “If you go to L.A., you will fail my course.”
I was thus forced to decide if this particular class or the hands-on experience at the Super Bowl was more worthwhile to my goals and my career.
I decided to go to the Super Bowl.
The entire time I was gone, my classmates told me I was mocked, and made fun of, by my professor.
The extra hard work I had to put in to leave that course with a decent grade was beyond frustrating. The entire semester, I had also been ghost-writing for a friend who had been published in high-profile outlets with my writing, but apparently that writing wasn’t good enough for a decent grade in class. For instance, a profile piece for which I got a “67%” grade in class brought New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and many others to tears.
Simply put, the treatment I got for being a working student was sad. The whole ordeal was an eye-opener for me.
Another concern was when I had to take a mandatory LBTQ+ class. I didn’t mind taking the course, but I did mind the mandatory assignments that came with it. The homework assignments of reading manga lesbian pornography were unbearable. I simply did not feel like watching or reading pornography, so I failed the class.
But I have to ask: Since when did it become acceptable to force pornography onto students? Does any semblance of ethics and morality exist anymore on campus? Related, clubs and fairs attempting to persuade students to come out surely must have some boundaries and restrictions. I support being proud of one’s identity, but there is no need to persuade anyone to reconsider her sexuality on the way to Starbucks. Schools need to set boundaries on campus.
The campus of Georgetown University is shown March 12, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Win McNamee/Getty Images
I also took a final exam with this essay prompt: “Prove in ___ amount of words or less why [former President Donald] Trump is a dictator.” Like many 19-year-olds studying communications, I did not have a strong political opinion at the time. Despite this, I could not come close to proving that for the very simple reason that I do not believe America comes close to resembling a dictatorship. The fact that we have the freedom to even suggest a prompt like that proves that we do not live under a dictator.
And, surprise! The students who were not able to “prove” that wildly tendentious statement received a bad final grade—or even ended up failing.
So I have realized we have many serious issues now plaguing college campuses. Here are just a few that stand out, based on my own experience.
The first issue is professors who look down upon working students. The skills that students acquire by working directly with professionals allow them to achieve more success after graduation. Colleges spend so much effort ensuring that their students have work after graduation, but when a current student is working it seems to be an issue. How many people have had to balance work and school? What about students who have bills to pay and aren’t fortunate enough to sacrifice everything to receive an education? Many graduate school programs offer courses fully online; why can’t undergraduate programs offer the same? My dean and multiple professors told me it was more worthwhile to simply transfer or take a year off, instead of making classes more accessible while I was working. This is unacceptable.
The second issue is that far too many professors try to brainwash impressionable students. Students choose a major and sign up for courses with the intention to master a certain craft and skillset. It is very uncomfortable to get into political discussions with one’s professor, knowing that he or she necessarily determines grades. Teaching is a profession, and students pay for their university education. Professors should separate their business and personal matters. The same way students do not project their personal issues during class time, professors should not do so either.
Finally, college is not easy, fun, or cheap. The stigma that college is a waste of time is likely due to the fact that it indeed has become a huge waste of time for many students. For far too many, it lives up to its poor reputation. College is, at its core, an educational institution that should be predicated upon unbiased teaching.
In short, the higher education needs to become rational again.
Emily Austin is a sports reporter and activist. Twitter: @emilyraustin.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.