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Thursday, February 24, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 102

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Steve Forsberg

Ask any administrator or faculty member and they will be glad to tell you that one of the biggest changes in college life has been the transition away from a campus composed primarily of full-time students living on campus.

The student body has increasingly become one of part-time students living off campus. Unfortunately, this change has led many students to bypass the core of what used to be a "university education."

It used to be that going to a university meant a lot more than just enrolling in classes from some place with "University" in the title. It used to mean four years devoted almost entirely to education, be it in the classroom or in a dormitory. Academic studies and socialization were seen as going hand-in-hand, and it was clearly understood that students had school as their first priority.

These days, however, those ideas are often seen as antiquated. An ever-increasing number of students just show up for class (if that) and take no interest in the broader school community. They make it clear that school is "job three" behind families and their paying jobs. They often cumulatively drag down the academic standards of the school, constantly complaining that "too much" is being asked of them and that they don't have time for anything but the bare bones.

This is not to belittle those who can't put a full-time effort into school. Life isn't a bowl of cherries, and people often have no choice but to try and get an education while at the same time juggling families and jobs. But in the end, something has to give, and that usually ends up being the university environment.

Professors didn't used to worry too much about giving heavy course loads. They knew that students had the time to do the work. After all, the students most likely had neither jobs nor their own families. Let's face it: The idea that a student should spend three hours outside of class studying for every hour spent in class is dead and gone.

On the contrary, professors are now pressured to "be reasonable" in light of the fact that so many students have so many other commitments. At a former school I attended, if you took a "commuter-heavy" evening section of a typical history course, you only had to read three books, while taking a daytime section of the same class required reading six. This was after administrators came down on the history department for failing too many part-timers.

Likewise, the old campus conventions of mandatory on-campus living (at least for freshmen) and mandatory social functions are long gone. University campuses are rapidly becoming as depersonalized and scrambled as the world at large, with fast food replacing cafeterias and parking considered a higher priority than social events.

The original idea of university life was that it was totally unlike the outside world. For a few years a person could wallow in a land where intellectual pursuit outranked monetary gain and where shared learning was as important as compiling credit hours.

As stated, some people don't have much choice but to deal with the hand they have. Unfortunately, this is leading many other people to unnecessarily emulate them. An increasing number of students who could live on campus and go to school full time are instead choosing to just visit now and then.

I admit that being a poor student isn't always a lot of fun, but working when you don't need to is a good way to short-change your education. Yes, some people need a job, and UH is rather picky about being paid, but a lot of people seem driven to buy designer clothes and sports cars and to go clubbing every other night. Generally speaking, if you can borrow rather than work, I'd suggest you borrow. The same applies to living on campus. It may not sound as sexy as being out on the town, but being right next to campus opens up a whole new world of opportunities.

UH is being asked to serve two diverse communities, and the strain it's put under is showing. But if you have any choice at all, concentrate on school and live on campus. You may come away with more than a degree.

Forsberg, a senior history major, 
can be reached at sjforsbe@bayou.uh.edu.

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