Welcome freshmen, now get out

Today marks the beginning of another school year on the Banks. First-year students, you will soon learn the deeply-rooted history of Rutgers University. For two centuries, it has given birth to great minds, ranging from Paul Robeson to Milton Friedman. In addition, it has paved the way for countless aspiring cultural artists, such as Mario Batali and James Gandolfini. However, when you see the number of remedial courses, the wonderful desk art in Alexander, or the thermostat in Van Dyke 211, you will wonder how this institution ever produced such remarkable individuals. This will not truly come into perspective until you have walked on to the EE bus around 4 p.m. The University was once a beacon for pride, history and excellence. It was a place that did not need to associate with the Ivy League to know its greatness, as it could give our southbound rivals a beat-down in both the field and the classroom. Today, it willingly accepts the status quo and increasingly becomes content with the prospects of mediocrity. The academic powerhouse that once stood on the Raritan River crumbles before our very eyes. Nevertheless, with changes in attitude and priority, we can once again restore its academic integrity. While it may be easier to blame the administration, it's important to understand the University's circumstances. It is undeniable that the University has fallen on financial hardships, especially in the last few years. Budget cuts seemed to have plagued professors, students and Scott Hall's bathrooms. Trenton seems to be more interested in funding the University's athletic endeavors, as opposed to its academic ones. Politics dictate the college's every move; therefore, the Rutgers community suffers, as its interests are not truly realized. Everyone can understand the difficult position of the college. However, my criticism lies in the way the University compensates for its misfortunes. Through its struggle to battle with financial shortcomings, it sacrifices its level of academic standards.First, the University needs to stop accepting so many unprepared students. Currently, our willingness to overcome the budget shortfall and the economic disposition of students has created a serious predicament. Not only does it suffer from housing shortages, but it has lowered its academics by its very nature. This decline can be seen by the types of courses offered at the University. While I fully understand that many students have their own strengths and weaknesses, there is no reason for the mathematics department to offer 63 sections of Algebra or the English department to have 70 sections of "Basic Composition." These classes should be kept at an absolute minimum. They should be left to students who have shown greater ability in one subject, but not the other. If one individual can easily compute derivatives but has difficulty writing an essay on "Reading Lolita in Tehran," then the circumstances can be understandable. Even if there are a few students who are weak in both writing and math, should there be so many under-100 level courses? We are a big university, but we are a university nonetheless. As Rutgers cuts backs on acceptances, it also needs to start instilling a higher bar for its applicants.By placing higher qualifications for individuals, it will effectively reduce the need for these particular classes. An increased standard does not necessarily mean SAT scores and grade point average. The application itself needs to be more demanding for its prospective students. When I applied to Rutgers, the process consisted of checking off my race and writing a short blurb on my optional statement. What kind of message are you sending as a "public ivy" if you ask for nothing more? By expecting more from high school graduates, it will inherently garner more respect. Combined with the economic incentives, more of the "best and the brightest" will show a willingness to attend Rutgers. Furthermore, as the focus shifts from these remedial courses, the University can begin to look at hiring and keeping full-time professors. The finances used to fund the enormous amount of teacher assistant-taught classrooms can be transferred. Algebra and "Basic Composition" can be left to the community colleges, where students can take them before applying to a university. This keeps the school from over-stretching its resources and limiting its focus.This is not a remedy to Rutgers' budget problems. However, it is a way for the University to deal with the financial crisis without sacrificing its academic integrity. While it does provide a solution to a few of the school's problems, only financial shrewdness can save it. Cuts need to be made, but not at the expense of education. So first-year students, while I will be glad to see you in "Nature of Politics 101," there needs to be less of you.  Brian is a Rutgers College Senior majoring in History and Political Science. He welcomes feedback at bcanares@eden.rutgers.edu.    


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