The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Task Force should help, not harm students

On Thursdays, SMU student Alan Rose is in class at 6:00 a.m. for the university’s student broadcast news show. His last class of the week ends at 6:20 p.m., and he then hustles to the studio to host his one-hour radio show. The remainder of his night is spent eating dinner, hanging out with friends, catching up on homework and possibly going out to a social event later. Rose is at work at 9:30 a.m. every Friday morning.

Thank goodness the Task Force’s academic regulations didn’t affect him.

If they did, Rose potentially wouldn’t be able to intern for large blocks of time on Fridays. His radio airtime might be cut short, since he would be constantly busy finishing the hours of homework recommended by the less-than-scientific Task Force formula: two hours of outside work per every hour spent in class.

The vulnerability that comes attached to the byline of an opinion article (this one in particular – my first) is unnerving, but I’m comforted by the fact that I’m not the only student who remains dissatisfied with the accepted Task Force recommendations and chooses to write about it. That’s not to say that I don’t feel safer with some of the other recommendations; the semi-accepted Medical Amnesty Program and Good Samaritan Policy are obvious steps toward student safety, as is the increased lighting on campus. My issue lies with the academic recommendations.

According to the April 29 press release on the SMU Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention Web site, the academic recommendations were conceived to “strengthen a culture of personal responsibility and academic achievement” as well as to “nurture the increasing intellectual strength of our incoming students.”

Kudos to SMU for attempting to raise their standards and foster personal accountability among students. Unfortunately these regulations preach to a perpetually-diligent choir.

Six academic policies were recommended and all were accepted without limitations. Four of the six academic recommendations (increase of Friday classes, midterm progress reports for freshmen and sophomores, mandatory final exams during the designated time slot, and exponential increase in homework) are unreasonable for two reasons: it implies that the majority of students need assistance prioritizing school before social life and hence a more structured scholastic experience. More importantly, it generalizes students’ academic behavior and punishes those who don’t need assistance.

Instead of nursing a hangover from the night before, third-year student Rose spends his Fridays interning with the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Although he goes to weekend parties for the socializing aspect, Rose – who doesn’t drink – is a blatant exception to the Task Force prototype, as are most full-time students. Friday classes, more homework and more 8 a.m. classes are virtually pointless and could even be detrimental to Rose’s internship. As a good student, he would go to the early classes anyway – even if they were on Fridays.

As a university that prides itself on its many opportunities, SMU will inadvertently keep students away from them. It’s nearly terrifying to imagine a first-year work-study student who wants to get involved in Student Foundation and intramural sports and Relay for Life and Greek life while also taking 17 credit hours, which equates to about 34 hours of homework per week and almost five hours per night. It’s exhausting to think about. The sacrifices made to allow for the extra work would most likely be extracurricular – not social – and would stifle students’ abilities to explore their interests and make new friends.

But regardless of a student’s involvement or lack thereof, it’s still the responsibility of the professor – not the Task Force – to ensure that students walk away with valuable knowledge. Classes should allow as much or as little homework needed to understand the material; a two hour minimum limit is unreasonable and impossible to gauge. More than the required amount would be ineffective busy work – a high school mechanism, like progress reports, that has no place on a college campus.

Whether students skipped class because they were still inebriated from the night before or because they spent the night studying in Fondren Library is immaterial; they’re adults. The glass-half-full view is that if students hold themselves academically accountable, they could perhaps disprove the stereotype on which the Task Force recommendations were based, leaving students, faculty and staff a bunch of happy campers.

The Task Force’s No. 1 concern should be students’ health and safety. But it is also necessary for the university to augment the value of our degrees through academic changes. To say that the six academic recommendations can both help prevent substance abuse and foster academic success is unrealistic.

The SMU Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention should stick to the original purpose stated on its Web site: “to help students live responsibly,” it’s not “to force them to live responsibly.” That’s what parents and jobs are for.

Jaimie Siegle is a junior journalism and English double major. She can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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