Fighting Entitlement: No A for Effort

Illustration by Erin Johnson

Illustration by Erin Johnson

This February, UC Irvine lost an esteemed professor. After his passing, Dr. Richard Kroll was lauded by colleagues and students alike for not only his excellence as an educator but also for his dedication to the written word. Professor Kroll’s influential reputation also stems from one of the hallmarks of his teaching: tough-love grading that awarded student work with realistic grades, often to the dismay of surprised students.
Recently, UCI Professor Ellen Greenberger led a study entitled “Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting and Motivational Factors,” which found that one third of the surveyed students believe that attending class lectures deserves a B grade, with 40 percent believing that they should receive a B just for completing the reading. With arrogance like that, it is no wonder that some students are shocked when they receive a D or an F.
The results of the study reveal a larger problem of student entitlement not only on our own campus but also across the nation. It’s not easy being a student today; competition is incredibly tough, fees are astronomical and the economy is promising a dismal job market for graduates. With so much money being poured into tuition and other college-related expenses, it’s understandable that students and parents hope to get their money’s worth.
However, a university is not a Degree ATM; shoving money into the slot doesn’t mean that a Bachelor’s is going to pop out of the bottom. Students who are surprised when their coasting along doesn’t reap a storm of As every quarter need to understand that college is not only an opportunity to learn but also a commitment to learning.
Learning isn’t a passive activity either. Attending every lecture proves nothing if that time is spent with one’s laptop open, browsing through the latest party photos on Facebook. Completing the reading is an excellent start, but if no attempt is made to actually understand the material or explore its intricacies in a required essay, then there was little point in reading it in the first place.
The current generation of college students was raised on “You’re Special!” campaigns, supported by a well-intentioned generation of baby boomers who hoped that their tireless efforts would give their children the best of everything. But such unceasing support created a lazy dependence; some of us came to expect everything from showers of praise to bottomless bank accounts.
Unfortunately, this self-importance spilled over into the education sector, where professors who choose not to spew rainbows over a student’s work are demonized as unnecessarily difficult. “Helicopter parents,” a title inspired to describe their tendency to hover over everything their child does, have even made the eerie leap to college, believing that calling a professor to protest the B that 20-year-old Johnny received in statistics is not a completely disturbing thing to do.
College is by no means easy, and after the gauntlet of college applications, students may feel like they deserve a break. The reality, however, is that students should expect good grades for good work.
We have countless resources at hand here at UCI, including office hours, media centers, study lounges, academic counselors and huge libraries. Professors should also be able to reward grades as deserved, without the threat of parental harassment. Easy grades don’t do students any favors. Maybe Johnny got into medical school thanks to the A that his mommy wrenched out of his statistics professor, but Johnny missed out on important lessons that his peers will already have as part of their arsenal in that challenging realm of study.
Students should let their college education be a time of personal growth, knowledge and learning. Professors who carry on the legacy of educators like Professor Kroll can instill an appreciation in students for the rewards that come with hard work, despite the despair that can accompany the first D a student has ever received. That grade is not a punishment; it is an incentive to recognize faults, correct them and move on with life under the satisfying recognition that personal improvement is possible.

Send comments to newuopinion@newuniversity.org. Please include your name, year and major.