Friday, December 12, 2003

Campus doings and happenings 

In my mirth over my last day of classes this semester I fled campus yesterday without picking up my copy of The Mass Media. Luckily I'm also subscribed to the e-mail edition.

1) Carl Brooks has an interesting article on grade inflation at Ivy League schools, with a perspective delivered right from the tiger's mouth of Princeton alumnus and current UMass Boston professor Dr. Ruth A. Miller. A clue about how bad the grade situation is in these schools:
According to the Daily Princetonian, however, the report "warns that both grade inflation and grade compression-narrowing of the range of grades given-are ongoing trends that are not being reversed despite recent administration efforts to combat them," and quotes the opening page of the report. "Who could ever have imagined that we would reach a point where a student with a straight B average would rank 923 out of a graduating class of 1079-or where a student with a C average would rank 1078?" it asks.
To what does Dr. Ruth A. Miller attribute this trend? "Grade inflation is a huge problem at Princeton, due to the socio-economic status of its students."

That's right. Being rich (or the promise of becoming rich) makes you a cheater! Well, not exactly. In fact, I think Dr. Ruth A. Miller is exactly right about the source of grade inflation. This is a generalization, but it's been my experience that Ivy Leaguers suffer from Type A personalities of the worst kind, and the sky-high cost of tuition only fuels their inability to accept less than 100% success in the classroom. For most of these people an Ivy League education is the culmination of the first 18 years of their life, years spent preparing for acceptance into these institutions by building a diverse background of interests through spending hours in band practice, sports practice, volunteering, studying, mastering a foreign language, working a part time job, earning leadership positions in school clubs and student government, etc. etc.

Don't get me wrong, these are all wonderful things for young people to do, and despite the fact I never applied to Harvard I was involved in several clubs, bands and sports teams through my teen years, but I was involved because I wanted to be involved for my own pleasure.

These schools have built an admission process that essentially requires parents to program every aspect of their child's life from age 8 through 18, and this all consuming necessity to succeed just boils through at the undergraduate level.

Interesting quote I'm not quite sure I understand the implications of: "She says at UMB, where students come from far more humble means, 'I don't feel that pressure. In fact, I feel almost the opposite pressure.'"

2) UMass Boston launches the first Green Chemsitry program in the nation.

3) UMass students received notice last week that their tuition was being rasied by $750.00 for the Spring Semester. This tuition increase was passed despite the fact the tuition for 2003-2004 was raised by $1,000.00 annually this summer. The Mass Media rightly comes out against this latest fee increase, which were delievered with less than 6 weeks until the spring tuition bill was due. The timing of this tuition hike clearly will not provide many UMass' lower income students sufficient week to scrimp and save that extra $750.00. That's a lot of money to squeeze out of a budget in just a month and a half.

Money quote: "The Boston Globe also wrote that at its peak, back in 1988, state spending on education was 6.5% of the budget. It is now down to 3.5%, taking a cut of 27% over the last three years alone. This means we the students will make up the difference while accepting a reduction in education services."

The Mass Media also shares my red line theory of higher education in Massachusetts.

4) UMass Senator William Roach, pro special interests shaking down UMass students for money, anti gay marriage.

Maybe I ought to write another letter to the editor.
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