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ROBBINS: Select labels perpetuate a toxic culture – The Cavalier Daily

With spring break approaching and exams, essays and projects looming over students’ heads each February and March, there is more than the usual amount of academic stress. Besides the normal worry about studying, grades, finding internships and planning for the future, many university students even worry about having the opportunity to study what they love. With Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and McIntire School of Commerce release acceptance decisions at this time, students feel more than ever that their future is at stake. This fear of securing one’s academic future has no place in a university that places such a strong emphasis on the ideals of exploration and academic excellence.

The fact that there are supposed alternative options – for example, studying economics as opposed to business, or studying government as opposed to public policy and leadership – does little to remedy the exclusivity of app-based majors. Descriptions of the major study programs themselves reveal the striking differences between academic fields – the Economy program is “the study of how people make choices and expect markets to work” while the Trade program describes itself as focusing on “applied learning, solving real business problems and seeking new insights”. These programs clearly have different goals, employ different strategies, and focus on different sets of values ​​— they are not interchangeable. Therefore, there is no real equivalent for a student who has been rejected from the more selective business program, and the same is true for the public policy and leadership program.

The selectivity of these programs seems to go directly against the asserted will of the University mission, which expresses a vision of developing the potential of “talented students from all walks of life”. In the University’s own words, they want to enable students from all backgrounds to be able to reach their full potential. The mission statement also goes on to express the University’s dedication to “the free and collegial exchange of ideas”. Despite this, selective programs are the complete opposite of free and inclusive. A recent column Opinion columnist Alexandra Shevloff points to the tension between the University’s goals for free academic exploration and the academic structure that prohibits passion-based learning. I wholeheartedly agree and also argue that it is precisely the selective majors that perpetuate the need to stray from one’s passions in order to achieve academic excellence.

However, if the University is to emphasize “the free and collegial exchange of ideas”, there must be alternative options that actually allow all students to study in their areas of interest. Currently, the application process bases admission on grades and achievements in the first three semesters of college – during which students must also balance radical adaptation to college life. Moreover, this transition period can be particularly difficult for first generation and transfer students. The current application process does not take into account that many applicants are still in academic growth. Any academic bump – even if caused by life issues and academic adjustments – looks negative on an application. For example, the Batten School Application Addendum helps explain academic bumps – dropping out of classes, gaps in his academic record, light course loads – but they still have a negative impact on his chances.

Additionally, to be admitted to the University through a highly competitive process, students must work to balance a challenging academic course load with a commitment to extracurricular activities, sports, jobs, and family life. throughout high school and even then, they are sometimes rejected. Once accepted, students are bound to remain under incredible academic stress if they wish to apply for a selective major. Because students are often so focused on applying to these majors during their first two years at university, they are hesitant to broaden their academic horizons or experiment in other areas of study for fear of obtaining a grade that will negatively impact their GPA. The emphasis on grades discourages students from pursuing that “free and collegial exchange of ideas” that the University’s mission statement so strongly encourages. One cannot feel “free” to explore when one’s ability to investigate what might be one’s true passion depends on numerical measures rather than motivation and exploration. So don’t application-based majors restrict the free exchange of ideas and prohibit students who are not accepted from reaching their full potential?

If we are going to have such exclusive programs, students who are not accepted should have a supportive and workable back-up plan that allows them to explore desired areas and achieve their goals. Students must be able to explore academically without their success depending on an admissions process that sometimes seems arbitrary and subjective. In practice, Batten, Commerce, and many other app-based programs at the University perpetuate a culture of exclusivity and elitism. Although these are wonderful programs, their selectivity prevents many students from growing intellectually through their programming. Students who are accepted into these selective programs are worthy of their position – but who’s to say that students who aren’t selected aren’t as passionate and driven? To maintain the University’s mission statement of academic exploration, free exchange of ideas, and enabling students to reach their full potential, the University must create space for academic bumps in their learning processes. admission for these selective majors, and should also ensure the creation of similar programs for students who ultimately are not accepted.

Hailey Robbins is opinion writer for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at [email protected]

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. The columns represent the opinions of the authors only.

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