College must be committed to education, not acceptance of as many a students as possible
I must say I have been haunted by the letter by Colleen McNeely last week, where she voices concern that her 100-level course experience has been less than challenging.
I also read the follow-up responses from readers to McNeely’s letter, including suggestions that she look into taking honors courses.
The Honors Program does indeed review student evaluations every semester to ensure our courses remain challenging, and I would of course invite her to apply to the Honors Program.
However, her concern in my mind is much more complex.
McNeely puts the burden on faculty to improve these introductory courses. While instructor expectations may be part of the issue, I would argue there is another dimension to this issue: the quality of the students who are admitted to Central Michigan University.
Certainly a great disparity in the academic abilities of students in a class is a challenge.
How does an instructor convey course information to meet the needs of all students in class in a manner that is perceived as challenging by the more academically gifted students?
I understand the need for a public institution to be accessible to its student citizens.
However, since we lose nearly a quarter of our freshman class after the first year, my question is whether we are doing marginal students a service by admitting them in the first place.
If it can be shown that there has been a decline in the overall quality of introductory classes and it is due in part to lowering our admission standards, we do a disservice to the nearly 75 percent of students who return in their sophomore year if we do not demand that the university maintain quality admissions standards.
Of even greater concern is where CMU is headed in terms of future admission policies. It is important that we maintain our fiscal integrity to preserve our existing academic programs.
However, will CMU lower its admissions standards to meet its pressing short-term financial goals and, in the process, put even more burdens on our faculty who teach introductory classes to try to bridge a growing student academic preparedness gap?
Surely, as a university community, we can develop more innovative ways of addressing fiscal issues than simply insisting on more cuts, especially to the academic division of the university.
How the new university president addresses maintenance and advancement of academic quality at CMU will be as great a challenge as how he achieves his fiscal goals.
Meeting these twin objectives will be a stiff test of the commitment he made to the university, namely: “Together, we will remain focused on our mission of academic excellence and success for our students.”
James Hill Director, Honors Program