The (lack of) value in FYS

Joe Iasso

When we walk into a classroom, how many of us contemplate the value of the course we are about to take? A valuable college course is one that makes you think you are getting the education you are paying for every time you leave. Many of us don’t know how much we are paying every time we sit down in a classroom. If you take more than 16 credits, you have to pay $965 per credit, while part-time students pay $690 per credit for courses at 5 p.m. or later, according to the Quinnipiac website. Before you continue reading this, think about all the classes you are taking this semester, and if you think you are getting what you pay for in each class.

Now that you have figured out which classes are worth that much money, which type of course do you think is better: one where a professor stands in front of the classroom and lectures, or one where you are engaged in an active discussion? I am going to make an assumption that most, if not all of you, chose the latter.

First-year Seminar (FYS) is a course new to the university this year that attempts to encourage students to think critically through active discussion. I have had the privilege of meeting with the faculty and administration behind FYS, and those meetings have changed my view of the course in a positive way. I believe the course has good intentions. However, it has little value, because the topics covered are usually meaningless to most students, unless faculty encourage them to make the most of it. What do you actually learn in FYS besides how to learn, or how you should be learning?

I would like to elaborate on the specifics of what students do in FYS, but sadly, the course, which is supposed to be standardized, has sadly become very inconsistent. Some professors have their students draw pictures to express their feelings, others assign their students eight-page research papers about topics they will never encounter again in their careers.

Faculty and staff in almost every department teach the FYS course, each bringing a different perspective to the section they teach, as well as varying levels of rigor. With a required course like this, consistency is key. It is unfair to students to take the same course that is supposed to produce the same outcome, when one student has to write a multi-page research paper while his or her roommate simply comes up with questions about the color of the sky.

One of the major aspects I don’t understand about First-year Seminar is that sections aren’t major-specific. As a political science major, it would be so much more beneficial to my education if I was in a section of FYS with other political science students taught by a political science professor. That way, consistency wouldn’t be as big of an issue, and I would be able to leave the class with a much greater understanding of my major because the class was taught in a way that has been proven to work best.

I can write pages and pages about all the problems I have with FYS, but when it comes down to it, why do we need this course in the first place? Instead of teaching us how we should learn, why not teach faculty how they can be a more effective professor by promoting the methods of teaching and learning stressed in FYS in their classroom? It makes no sense to teach students about how they should be learning, as it would be seen as highly inappropriate for us to tell many of our professors, “I think there is a better way you can teach this class.”

However, professors would be more likely to listen and perhaps change their ways if the methods were encouraged by university administration, and in a few years, Quinnipiac would be giving students an invaluable education.

UPDATE: This article was updated on Nov. 6 at 2:30 p.m. to include that part-time students pay $690 per credit for courses at 5 p.m. or later.