THE BLOG

Did I Major in International and Global Studies or 'B.S.?'

02/03/2015 11:07 am ET | Updated Apr 05, 2015

Many of my friends and classmates adore Brandeis; they love its liberalism, all that it has taught them, and the friendships they have made. I definitely value my friendships, but I have had more than my fair share, you could say, of annoyances with Brandeis academics throughout my four years here. Every year, I try to be positive and remember that the $60,000 a year tuition is worth it if I learn at least one new thing a day. I do. But, it hit me yesterday night when I was having dinner with a friend. We are both second semester seniors. Our dinner conversation pondered the question: "Did we major in bullshit?"

It all started my second semester, freshman year. I had a journalism professor who was found drunkenly unconscious in her car on campus. When that unhappy event occurred, my inner investigative journalist emerged, and I dug deeper to find out some background information on my professor. She had been in prison for five years, and had even aided in someone else's escape from jail. I was attending Brandeis University because I thought it was an institution that could provide me with role models, professors who were passionate about their calling and, in turn, professors who would transfer this passion unconditionally to their students. I was 18 and mentally unprepared to have an ex-convict for a professor who frankly did not care about her students because she came intoxicated to class. Not surprisingly, her lectures lacked substance. To defend Brandeis though, the professor had previously been an established journalist for NPR and was labeled a "late hire" in the school's excuse for lack of research into her background. Although this specific experience was not welcoming and was truly a sad one, I remained open to having faith in Brandeis -- I had made some of the best friends I could ask for.

So, I stayed. It got worse before it got better. I had two more professors, for Spanish and for economics, who were not up-to-par with what I thought should be Brandeis standards. I complained to the Dean, and the two professors were not asked to return the following year.

I kept going, remembering that my experience was unique to Brandeis, and that my time would come. I have had a handful of truly inspiring professors who love what they do; I have definitely embraced their classes. I am majoring in international and global studies and minoring in journalism because Brandeis believes that students should master the content of their chosen fields before reporting on them. I have come to understand this because, in journalism, it is valuable to have an area of expertise.

Yet, I am now in my final semester at Brandeis. Over dinner at Whole Foods with my friend, the "real world" came up. We spoke about how we are ready to do what we love and to experience the world; we no longer want to "bullshit." College should not have to put a damper on nor be an obstacle to these experiences; but in reality, and in more than a few ways, it has been. For instance, let's just take this semester -- I should be preparing to write multiple stories a day, transcribing interviews, and researching, as a professional journalist does. Instead, I am required to take an introductory economics class to meet my quantitative reasoning (QR) requirement. The catch -- I have already taken a similar economics class, for my major, which even used the same textbook. The school refuses to let me count it as such, for QR credit, even though the principles are identical. It is the system that, in many ways, is failing its students.

My friend and I discussed that we are almost robotic. We read our assignments and we write our papers; we are no longer learning because, the truth is, you must learn by doing. There are systematic flaws in higher education and, by the time you are a senior, you are burnt out and "over" the system. I should be out in the world reporting, contemplating the upcoming presidential election or the recent Paris tragedies, and making sure the public is aware. I would be learning and so would the rest of the world; completing my next problem set is not serving anyone besides the system.

My friend agrees and says, "the whole system is who can bullshit a better paper" or find the easiest way to get an A. There have even been scandals at Harvard, for instance, about grade inflation. This must tell us something -- the system is not working. Perhaps there is a way for universities to keep students engaged, even in the final semester of their senior year: Let students do what they aspire to do. I can guarantee they will learn a whole lot more than they would by studying the demand curve of coconuts and fish. That is so high school.