A neglected equity issue on college campuses: instructional quality.

by Harry on January 18, 2017

The racist incidents I mentioned in the this post have, probably rightly, absorbed a good deal of administrative time and energy. One response has been to go a bit more deeply into climate and, more generally, equity issues on campus. The provost’s office recently asked departments (very nicely!) to plan events around the rubric of ‘equity and diversity’.

But, what should a department do, when asked to plan a response to equity and diversity issues? A number of colleagues went straight to talking about the racist and hate and bias incidents themselves. Fair enough, although if every department ran events on how to deal with racist incidents that might produce a fair bit of redundancy. I wanted at least some departments to focus on addressing what I think is an unduly neglected equity issue: the uneven, and in a significant number of cases downright poor, quality of instruction on the campus. I also believe that high quality instruction (with instruction broadly understood to include mentoring) can even counteract some of the effects of the kinds of incidents under the spotlight, by affecting the climate within which students encounter those incidents.

Let me give you three examples.

First, suppose that you are a student from a disadvantaged background, and you have to fulfill the various quantitative reasoning (i.e., basically, math) requirements that any Bachelors degree at an R1 requires (see Lesson Plan). If you are from a disadvantaged background you are more likely than the average student to have received poor quality math instruction in high school, and less likely to have received compensatory tutoring from your parents or from personal tutors. If the university has assigned highly skilled and experienced instructors, who are invested in your success, to teaching the basic math classes you are required to take, this has three advantages for you. First, you will learn more math which, presumably, is to your benefit. Second, you are more likely to pass, and more likely to pass with a better grade, thus affecting your success in future competitions within and beyond the university (for example, the competition to become a Business or Nursing major, which are decided in substantial part by your GPA). Third, because of the first two advantages, you are significantly less likely to drop out of college. Now, imagine that, instead, the college assigns people to teach the class who are not skilled in teaching math to students like you, and either have little investment in your success, or have limited opportunities to improve through professional development (or both). Perhaps, for example, the instructor is a graduate student who struggles to speak non-technical English, was selected for graduate school because of their research potential rather than their teaching skills, and has strong incentives to focus on research rather than improving as a teacher. In this case you are going to do worse, get a worse grade, learn less, and be more likely to drop out. The students more likely to succeed in that classroom are those whose high school preparation was better, and those who have access to private tuition of some sort. The lower the level of the class, the more vivid the equity issues. Who is teaching development or remedial math classes on your campus, and how skilled are they?

Second, suppose you want to become a doctor, or a nurse. We have a Physics course taught in a large lecture format, and graded on a curve, in which you need to succeed in order to have a shot at the Nursing program. And, of course, there’s Organic Chemistry (Medical school). If those courses are taught by skilled instructors, invested in student success, with plenty of commitment to and opportunities for improving their practice as instructors, everyone has something like a fair shot. If not… again, the playing field is tilted to those who have enjoyed better science instruction in high school, a resource that is not distributed equally across classes or races. And consider the consequences of not getting into the Nursing program. It is still possible to become a nurse. But, typically, first one has to complete one’s degree (having found some other major, and often this may involve an extra semester of school), and then one has to spend an extra year or two in school. Lower income students, already $50-75k in debt, have to forgo earnings for an extra year or two, and go still further into debt. Lets say $50k for two years of forgone earnings, plus $40k in tuition—that’s $90k incurred costs—all for the want of a skilled Physics teacher in a gatekeeping course.

My third imagined case (not that any of these three cases have taken great leaps of imagination given that they are all based on the experiences of actual people) is a bit different. Suppose you are a Latina, first generation, students and you come to U.W. Madison as a first year, feeling naturally a little anxious about college, being a minority for the first time, and naturally somewhat unsafe because you know about the incidents I referred to in the previous post. And you land in classes of 200 students, none of whom you know, almost all of whom are white. Now imagine that the professors and TAs are skilled at forging bonds between students, so that they approach learning as a collaborative task; you are compelled to talk with other students about the material, and they are compelled to talk with you, and the professors and/or TA’s take time to have a brief personal conversation with you once in a while (as well as being skilled teachers of the material you are studying, so that you feel increasing confidence in your command of it, and a sense of belonging in the institution). My conjecture (and that’s all it is) is that, whatever transpires in terms of racist behaviours beyond the classroom, you are more likely to learn academically, more likely to feel confident, more likely to feel that you can approach professors when dealing with setbacks, and generally more likely to succeed than if your professors and TAs, even if skilled in general at teaching the material, are not skilled at creating an environment that makes you feel as welcome and safe as the students who come to a place like this as if it is their birthright. And much more likely than if they are not even skilled in teaching the material.

My department has responded to the call to plan events concerning equity and diversity by instituting a regular series of meetings for faculty and TAs on improving instruction. Of course, we don’t control crucial gate-keeping courses like OChem. But some first generation, low-income and minority students (the lucky ones) take our courses, and one of our courses (baby logic) meets one of the QR requirements. And several of us participate in the First Year Interest Group program I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the students in which are disproportionately non-white and non-affluent. The better and more inclusive our teaching, the more effectively we counteract background inequities. And we can do so without a cost to the more advantaged students at our institution. So far the meetings have been well-attended (including (importantly) by senior colleagues), productive, and frankly invigorating. It is particularly good to have both faculty and graduate students in the room together—each meeting has featured a joint presentation by a faculty member and a graduate instructor, addressing some specific problem of instruction, and one of the benefits has been that joint deliberation. That said, as always, I’d welcome suggestions for sessions we might organise, or for curricular tools that might already exist for our professional development. And, of course, I’d urge other departments on my campus (I know CT gets readers from several of our departments—including Math!) to follow our example!

{ 31 comments }

1

Matt_L 01.18.17 at 2:16 pm

I think this is absolutely right. A consistent drive for equity in instruction will be a better answer than a one time talk on racism and hate crimes more generally. Even better, improving instruction all around improves the experience for all students.

I am not sure I can recommend any specific activities. My own discipline History, has had a rather tepid response to this particular equity issues. The AHA has sponsored something called The Tuning Project, which is supposed to help change approaches to curriculum at the program level. They sponsor teaching maquettes at the annual conference. But there is no systematic attempt within the organization to lay down what best practices in history teaching really is. There is a reluctance on their part to appearing to be too prescriptive. It doesn’t help that they have completely abandoned any support for program reviews.

I think some of the best work on best practices in history teaching has been done by individual scholars or small teams. Sam Weinburg has a program at Stanford. Most of his work is aimed at High School History teachers, but a lot of it is still applicable to introductory college courses, especially the large lecture classes with sections taught by TAs. His book _Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts_ (Temple : 2001) is pretty great.

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M Caswell 01.18.17 at 2:24 pm

You might also point out that higher-quality instruction benefits advantaged students, as well- namely, by educating them. If your “success” (ie, GPA) in a course of study is a result of your coasting on training from high-school and earlier, I’d guess you’re probably not learning very much.

I can even imagine that a program that effectively penalized coasting on conventional college-prep (maybe through intense work in discussion and collaboration, a la your third scenario) might show that ‘disadvantaged’ students performed better than the median.

3

sanbikinoraion 01.18.17 at 3:18 pm

One thing you surely could and should be doing is putting pressure on hiring committees to consider teaching ability more strongly. I have whined about this before here but I was shocked at the poor quality of instruction at the Russell Group university I attended in the UK as an undergrad — precisely due to research-only hiring practices.

4

Sumana Harihareswara 01.18.17 at 3:27 pm

suppose you want to become a doctor, or a nurse. We have a Physics course taught in a large lecture format, and graded on a curve, in which you need to succeed in order to have a shot at the Nursing program. And, of course, there’s Organic Chemistry (Medical school). If those courses are taught by skilled instructors, invested in student success, with plenty of commitment to and opportunities for improving their practice as instructors, everyone has something like a fair shot. If not… again, the playing field is tilted to those who have enjoyed better science instruction in high school, a resource that is not distributed equally across classes or races.

Courtney Milan discusses, in interviews about her romance novel Trade Me and in the epilogue to that book, how teaching introductory chemistry classes at UC Berkeley made her super aware of inequality in the skills different students had been taught in high school, and of instructional quality as an equality of opportunity issue. There were skills (around balancing equations, if I recall correctly) that some other instructors scoffed at teaching, saying they were remedial. But the students Milan taught those skills to then had basically equal learner outcomes to the ones who had learned them in high-quality high schools.

Dan Luu has a related anecdote about CS classes and the skill of debugging.

Those of you who are, or work with, researchers who need to work with data: consider hosting a Data Carpentry workshop. “Data Carpentry develops and teaches workshops on the fundamental data skills needed to conduct research. Our mission is to provide researchers high-quality, domain-specific training covering the full lifecycle of data-driven research.” These computational skills are skills that are often passed along in cliquish communities of practice, in casual one-on-one mentoring that suffers from homophily, and that suffer from stereotype threat. If you hold a DC workshop (instructors are volunteers, you just need to cover venue & travel/lodging), you make it more likely that researchers from marginalized demographics will learn these skills and be able to do better and faster research.

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oldster 01.18.17 at 5:48 pm

Excellent and inspiring thoughts on teaching, as always. Thanks.

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carol 01.18.17 at 6:59 pm

My daughter graduated from UCLA, and through her I became aware of the Academic Advancement Program. UCLA invites incoming students “from multi-ethnic, low-income, first generation, and multiracial backgrounds” to attend a special orientation day with their parents, to attend a summer program to meet peers and be introduced to the campus and dorms, to participate in tutoring, and other programs during their time at UCLA. It has been effective in increasing graduation rates as one example of positive outcomes.

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perfectoid 01.18.17 at 10:56 pm

was selected for graduate school because of their research potential rather than their teaching skills

How do you do otherwise? Most people coming out of undergraduate have no experience teaching whatsoever. It seems to me that all you can do is adjust incentives once people arrive (e.g., by having certain teaching goals serve as a requirement towards graduation).

One (horrible) way of probably increasing average teacher reviews is to take advantage of students’ biases and hire a lot of white males, and definitely no one who speaks English as a second (or third) language. But that “remedy” is certainly worse than the disease.

8

derrida derider 01.19.17 at 12:10 am

IME teaching within even good universities is an extremely hit and miss affair, ranging from the absolutely awesome to the utterly pathetic. And it’s very common for the most prestigious professor to be an awful teacher (perhaps because they are a legend in their own mind and consider students beneath them), and for the lowliest adjunct to be inspiring and effective because they love the subject.

But M Caswell @2 is dead right. As the economists say, to explain behaviour always look to the incentives. Research and teaching require very different skill sets or even motivation. So long as you select only for research then getting consistent teaching aint gonna happen. The balance in assessment of academics needs to shift a bit – in the long run that would improve research because it is research that inter alia is being taught.

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clew 01.19.17 at 12:53 am

I have a specific example from being a GSI (TA) in a bunch of quantitative ecosystem classes at UC Berkeley. The department assumed that every student was comfortable with Excel, and therefore our simulation/modeling exercises were in Excel. Go figure, students from desk-job families and white-collar high schools are *far* more likely to have Excel background than students from poorer or more manual-labor families.

There’s a *lot* of tacit knowledge in using GUIs, let alone Excel. I was unhappy with my own ability to explain what I learned long ago, so I asked the … I forget what it’s called, but there’s an office nominally of pedagogical support. And they told me, very slowly, that spreadsheet programs are vocational learning and UCB wouldn’t teach them. Perhaps my students should pay for a class at the community college down the way?

I was so full of rage. UCB is *paying* for Excel, obviously, and we’re teaching students that it’s a sufficient research tool, but we wouldn’t teach it. (At the same time I was surviving William Kahan’s first course in numerical method errors, and he was demonstrating just how unreliable Excel is. But that’s a separate despair.)

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Omega Centauri 01.19.17 at 2:30 am

Derrida @8.
” And it’s very common for the most prestigious professor to be an awful teacher (perhaps because they are a legend in their own mind and consider students beneath them), and for the lowliest adjunct to be inspiring and effective because they love the subject.”

I’d be a bit more charitable, I remember in the distant past being taught that the best teacher of subject X is a person who only mastered the subject after great struggle. The worst teacher is the one who was a “natural” in the subject, he can’t understand how people could have difficulty, nor is he likely to be able to identify and work through whatever cognitive issues his students have. OTOH, the guy who had had to struggle, knows about the potential misunderstandings, and has thought about how to overcome them. It could be as much of an issue of understanding (of the potential difficulties), than it is an attitude problem.

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Omega Centauri 01.19.17 at 2:33 am

Lots of good advice. Hard to implement though, especially as most universities have different priorities (like research, and chasing grant money). I suspect its most common to dole out the responsibility for teaching remedial and low level courses to those with the least political clout -like TAs, and adjuncts. Full professors probably consider it an insult to be asked.

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Alan White 01.19.17 at 4:33 am

Hi Harry–yet another reflective post on undergrad teaching at the R1s. However, as a fellow UW prof at a much less prestigious institution, I have a question. Admission to Madison is a much higher bar than at mine, with an average ACT score somewhere around 28. That’s just one measure, I know, but doesn’t it also indicate that in general even students from disadvantaged backgrounds have academic achievement superior to the qualifications of admittance to other UW schools (all other admission requirements held equal–I don’t know if they are)? My two-year transfer institution has about an average 21 ACT (I saw one anonymously admitted student with a 4!), which closely mirrors the average for high-school students in Wisconsin generally. That tends to indicate that Madison has generally higher-attaining students anyway, and maybe irrespective of socio-economic background. What I wonder about is the magnitude of the overall capability of Madison students versus (say) 2-year UW transfer students, and the comparative challenges pedagogically.

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Gabriel 01.19.17 at 6:48 am

I certainly raged, as a university instructor, about the inequalities present in my classroom; I also raged that I was being used as a cheap safety valve. University instructors teaching basic skills allows primary education to be further neglected. By all means, let’s set up safety nets at the university level, but that’s just triage, and the situation is going to get worse and worse unless the educational system in America is fixed.

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Z 01.19.17 at 7:00 am

Who is teaching development or remedial math classes on your campus, and how skilled are they?

As the responsible of the remedial math program on my campus, let me tell you that your post (and in particular your remark on the selection and performance of remedial math instructors) hit very close to home.

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Eszter 01.19.17 at 8:21 am

Thanks for another important teaching post.

To Clew’s point, since it relates to my research and it’s something I look out for all the time, even high-achieving students from privileged backgrounds don’t necessarily know how to use Excel. They may be able to fake it better though. I have watched students do things manually in Excel that are some of the most basic functions in it. Do not ever assume that your students know how to use the tools on their machines! But you’re correct about the overall patterns, those from less privileged backgrounds are even less likely to know things about digital media than those from more privileged backgrounds.

As for the general call for ideas, I’m afraid I don’t have much. Being sensitive to the diversity of backgrounds your students in the classroom represent is generally very important, but I suspect few faculty keep it in mind all the time. And the most clueless are probably the least likely to show up to training that addresses the issue.

At the institution level, efforts like the U. Chicago’s Center for College Student Success seem to have potential, but these of course require considerable admin support. https://ccss.uchicago.edu

16

Kiwanda 01.19.17 at 1:13 pm

It’s not clear to me that, as claimed in the examples, sufficiently skilled and committed instructors can compensate for arbitrarily large differences in preparation. I don’t see that as any more true for STEM, as discussed here, than for classes in other areas. Suppose a history class is to be taught to a mixture of students whose reading levels range from the third grade on up. Is there a common reading list?

17

Harry 01.19.17 at 2:37 pm

I agree with Kiwanda, and Alan’s point bears on it. Exactly how much inequality you can deal with in a single classroom depends on the subject matter, and your skill level, but at some point nobody can do it (Kiwanda’s example seems to capture that). But, as Alan says, the floor of preparation is reasonably high at an institution as selective as mine.

On derrida and OC’s point. I have recently felt naive about this after talking with colleagues in other departments. My department has no adjuncts, 3 dedicated academic staff, and 19ish profs, plus some grad students. Among the academic staff and profs the service teaching assignments are equal. grad students are mostly TAs (with a heavy workload), but each semester a few each teach a small number of small-class format service courses, and we exert considerable quality control. I have lately gathered from colleagues that in a good number of departments on my campus (which has a more egalitarian ethos than many research-oriented campuses) distribute burdens somewhat differently.

Still, Deans have sticks and carrots (or can get access to them). and can be motivated to use them if parents, students, and others make enough fuss. Part of what animated me to write this post is that whereas students mobilize enthusiastically (often supported by grad students and faculty) around some equity issues, I have NEVER seen them organize around this issue, and I am not sure grad students and faculty would support them as comfortably.

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stevenjohnson 01.19.17 at 2:37 pm

As Jason Brennan and Phil Magness know, the primary purpose of universities is research, not education.

As to improving the quality of education, no doubt if the adjuncts were to put in the proper number of hours to be prepared, then their teaching would be better. Evidently it’s all their fault.

Irony: Not an internet thing.
Personally, I don’t believe internet things are really things, so this is a plus for irony.

19

engels 01.19.17 at 2:44 pm

It’s always interesting to compare elite academic institutions’ concern for the disadvantaged with what actually gets results:

The mobility rate captures the share of all students at a given college who both came from a lower-income family and ended up in a higher-income family. The top of this list is dominated not by elite colleges, but by mid-tier public ones, including the colleges that make up the City University of New York.

1. Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology
2. City College of New York
3. Texas A&M International University
4. Lehman College
5. Bernard M. Baruch College
6. California State University, Los Angeles
7. Crimson Technical College
8. University of Texas-Pan American
9. New York City College of Technology
10. John Jay College of Criminal Justice

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Omega Centauri 01.19.17 at 3:20 pm

Kiwanda, I suspect the problem is more acute in STEM, especially for the math heavy subjects. Not having the mathematical foundation or even having a few crucial holes in the foundation can render the classwork undoable and the material un-understandable, so an underprepared student can be completely left behind.

21

Ben Alpers 01.19.17 at 4:11 pm

The problem is not exactly that there are no incentives to be a good teacher. At my (middling) state flagship institution, teaching is a key component of our annual evaluations. And on the extraordinarily rare occasions when there is money for merit raises, many departments look at teaching as a component in granting raises. The deeper problem is that student evaluations are usually the sole basis for evaluating teaching, despite study after study suggesting that they are, at best, a flawed metric. We need better methods for evaluating teaching. Otherwise, no amount of concern for teaching is going to make much difference. As a faculty member in the Honors College, we care deeply about teaching skill when hiring faculty. But it’s very hard to judge teaching skill when looking at a dossier or interviewing a candidate (though I should say we’ve managed to do very well over the years).

22

Matt_L 01.19.17 at 4:53 pm

I had a great conversation with a colleague about teaching and the psychological (or ego) hurdles for improving instruction. As scholars we are all happy to share our research and have open discussions about the relative merits of our arguments and the problems in our work.

But there is no such intellectual free play in our teaching. As teachers we think we have an handle on it. College professors (or at least me and my colleagues) are very sensitive and even secretive about how and what we teach. We assume that we are all the best instructors ever and things get very prickly very quickly if someone argues otherwise.

My department is full of able people, both as scholars and teachers, but we have a laissez-faire approach to our teaching. Nobody will deem it their place to observe what goes on in another person’s classroom once the door closes. Until we approach our teaching in the same way we approach our scholarship, improvement will be fitful at best.

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EB 01.19.17 at 5:24 pm

The problem that Kiwanda points out is much more prevalent at open-admission or nearly open-admission colleges/universities/community colleges. There, it’s the well-prepared students who are shortchanged. At a place like UW Madison, where as Harry notes the floor is fairly high, there will always be some students (not just ones from bad high schools, either) who of necessity have to avoid math, or writing-intensive/reading intensive courses because the demands are too stringent for them. Excellent instructors certainly make a difference, and should be rewarded for that excellence; in addition, instructors whose English is hard to understand should be required to take speech coaching. It is unforgivable that we allow such an easily-corrected instructional barrier to continue to hinder students’ learning.

24

Dave 01.19.17 at 7:08 pm

There is actually some work examining whether skilled teaching can compensate for this achievement gap in STEM courses, particularly with respect to active learning. See Haak et al. 2011 Science 332:1213 and Freeman et al. 2014 PNAS 111:8410.

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delazeur 01.19.17 at 11:52 pm

perfectoid @ 7:

One (horrible) way of probably increasing average teacher reviews is to take advantage of students’ biases and hire a lot of white males, and definitely no one who speaks English as a second (or third) language.

The unfortunate reality is that there are a non-negligible number of STEM professors and grad students whose English proficiency is adequate for working in a lab but not adequate for teaching. (It’s easier to overcome a language barrier between two people who share a knowledge base than it is to overcome that barrier when one person is trying to impart their knowledge on another.) These people usually aren’t given teaching duties, or if they are they are given upper-level rather than introductory courses, but it is still a legitimate concern that goes beyond thick accents and skin tone.

Also, some anecdotes on the use of Excel in the classroom:

I grew up in the weird middle ground where my family was poor (blue/pink collar) but had much the social and education capital of upper-middle class families. I used Excel a few times in high school to make graphs, but didn’t do anything serious with it until freshman chem lab in college. I remember being completely flabbergasted, and the TAs were totally unwilling to help, but my classmates whose parents were software engineers had no trouble with it. Later, when I was finally taking courses from my engineering department, we were provided with excellent education on the intricacies of Excel, but then again that’s about as close to vocational education research universities are willing to get.

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Matt_L 01.20.17 at 12:09 pm

“Suppose a history class is to be taught to a mixture of students whose reading levels range from the third grade on up. Is there a common reading list?”

I teach history at regional comprehensive state university right next door to Harry. We admit anyone who has graduated from high school and has taken the ACT.

Yes, in an introductory history course, there is a common reading list with a textbook written at a middling, at least high school level, and a primary source documents reader that require college level reading competency. Some of instructor’s job is to coach students in how to read the primary sources. For many of the difficult texts, like Metternich’s Confession of Political Faith, you have to break the text down to make it understandable to the class. Your hypothetical student with a third grade reading level would have to be very attentive in lecture and discussion to pass the class, but it is not impossible.

I am pretty sure that they would not graduate with a degree in history, because the upper level courses are so reading intensive. Low reading comprehension would also suggest that the struggle with writing and they would not be able to complete the Senior Thesis requirement in history. There are other majors where the student can take bubble tests and do not have to complete a senior project.

To be honest, I would say that somebody with a third grade reading level is not going to last very long in college. They are likely to become frustrated and flunk out.

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James Wimberley 01.21.17 at 11:39 am

Ben Alpers: the problem is exarcebated by the weird convention that professors don’t intrude on each others’ workplaces. As my friend Mike O’Hare keeps saying, a proper habit of collegiality in teaching implies regular cross-observation and peer review. Don’t they do this in hospitals?

28

Tom West 01.21.17 at 4:26 pm

In the tension between two unrelated activities, research and education, wouldn’t the welfare-maximizing outcome be to simply delete the research aspect altogether for say 80-90% of the institutions, turning them into “higher” schools?

The whole “let’s give the kids access to researchers” made some sort of sense a century ago where a sizable proportion of what was a very small number of students might have actually benefited from access to academia.

But now, in the age of industrial-scale higher learning, the real need is for more educators. The fact that because of the accident of history this is linked with research (to the extreme detriment of the education) clearly indicates it’s time for a complete rethink of the the whole institution.

As it is, research and researchers essentially parasitize the spending earmarked by society for education.

It would seem to make more sense for society (i.e. government) to *actually* decide what amount we want to spend on research and what amount for education rather having them forced to march in lockstep, much to the detriment of education.

(Just to be clear, I am in favour of a current (or greater) levels of research spending, but it seems unconscionable to achieve this goal by putting one over on the public. They have the right to decide transparently, even if it’s to my detriment.)

29

Lew Lorton 01.21.17 at 5:59 pm

Without trying to denigrate the opinion of those here, this kind of reaction to a problem is unfortunately typical. We all see the problem and, more importantly, the solutions in terms of our own expertise and experience and then the discussion of the ‘solution’ devolves into an analysis of the difficulty of making substantial change to a culture that would be resistant to change. Thus the implementation becomes a much more popular problem just because the constraints are understandable.

“Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”
H.L.Mencken The Divine Afflatus” in New York Evening Mail (16 November 1917);

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Kiwanda 01.23.17 at 1:56 am

It’s certainly true that teaching is under-valued, particularly at more selective universities, which hurts some students more than others. Moreover, a school shouldn’t admit students without allocating the appropriate resources needed for it to properly teach them. And some places have “introductory” courses, in computer science for example, where students who have simply used computers, but want to learn more, are put in with students who have passed an AP course in the topic. Which is to say, “we don’t want any students who didn’t study this in high school”.

What’s murkier to me is, what if a student is admitted who is quite prepared to study literature, say, but decides to go pre-med? That is, UW Madison is fairly selective, but probably not to the extent that any student is ready to study anything they wish.

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Harry 01.23.17 at 2:03 am

“What’s murkier to me is, what if a student is admitted who is quite prepared to study literature, say, but decides to go pre-med? That is, UW Madison is fairly selective, but probably not to the extent that any student is ready to study anything they wish.”

I agree. But don’t see how it is pertinent to the discussion. Am I missing something?

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