Phi Beta Cons

Oh, the Things You Can Get College Credit For Today!

One of the trends that best illustrates the erosion of academic standards and expectations at many of our colleges is the fact that students can often get credit for various projects and experiences. In today’s Pope Center piece, Mary Grabar writes about this growing phenomenon.

There has been a ton of publicity regarding Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz (called “mattress girl” below) who has been carrying around a mattress for months to protest what she claims is the university’s indifference to her alleged rape. It’s silly but vengeful stuff. It is also, however, her senior thesis, Grabar notes. Find the right professor, and a bit of “performance art” is transformed into several credits — and how can such work merit anything but an A?

“Sadly, Sulkowicz’s performance art project reflects a growing trend of professors giving students assignments that have little to do with real academics,” Grabar writes. Lots of schools now have “service-learning” courses where students go off campus to do things (usually things that happen to appeal to leftist sensibilities) and then turn in a “reflection paper” in which they express their feelings about it.

At the end of the piece, Grabar puts her finger on the root of the problem — lack of oversight. Modern academic administrators don’t like to tell faculty members that they must stick to real work and some professors have taken advantage of that — such as UC San Diego professor Roberto Dominguez who has two “clothes-free” options in his class. And since many students today just want an easy degree, all of these “projects” that call for little or no work are appealing.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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