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March 18, 1988 - Image 18

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The Michigan Daily, 1988-03-18
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Honors College:




By Lisa Pollak

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The two thousand LSA honors.
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Photos by Robin Loznak
First-year/sophomore honors students say they join the admissions," One high school counselor said
program looking for a list of brochure-type promises: Some students find what they're looking for.
smaller class size, more faculty contact, better counseling,
individual attention, easier grading scales, "special privi- First-year student Russell Chun, who, like 53 percent of
leges" like class prerequisites waiver, and - of course - honors students, pays out-of-state tuition, said, "The honors
prestige. "It's of course a status thing for many of the kids program was the incentive to come here.
who apply to the prestigious Eastern schools and fail to gain "You want to learn more and. you want to take more

M att Posthuma - who
with a 3.9 grade point and a

graduated from high school
1400 SAT score -- says he

wouldn't have come to the University if it wasn't for the
LSA Honors Program.
"The program seemed so much better than the regular
college because they said you'd get real professors and
smaller classes," said the former high school salutorian, who
was invited to apply to honors along with 3,000 other
qualified LSA applicants last year. "I didn't want to be just a
regular LSA student."
Now, at the end of his first year as one of LSA's honors
students - who comprise 15 percent of the college -
Posthuma isn't exactly ready to rewrite the honors brochure.
He is ready, however, to admit that he probably wouldn't
come here just for the Honors Program again.
"I don't think honors made much difference in making
me feel less like an animal or a number," he said. "In an
honors section you do more work, and I guess you get a
better TA. But what's a better TA? That's arbitrary," he said.
"The program's not as great as they say it is. They brag
about it like it's this really great thing - but it, in itself,
really isn't an incentive to go the University of Michigan."
Posthuma, of course, is just one student - one opinion,
one experience, out of some 2,000 other students in the 28-
year-old Honors Program. But there is a common link be-
tween those who echo his sentiment; as he puts it, "Part of
it was just selfish on my part. Being in the honors college
was sort of a status symbol. And unless you intend to have
an honors concentration, I don't think honors is worth it."
Is it? Of the students who complete the
"freshman/sophomore" honors program - by maintaining a
3.0, taking at least two honors classes per term, the Great
Books survey course, and 14-18 credit hours per term -
only 50 percent are accepted into the "junior/senior" program
and declare honors concentrations, said Nancy Kushigian, a
program associate director and counselor.
The other 50 percent of honors graduates are LSA stu-
dents who applied for the "junior/senior" program through
their departments of concentration without having partici-
'pated in the "freshman/sophomore" program, she said. And
although Honors Director David Shappirio says the first two
years of the program can't accurately be evaluated as separate
from the last, these first two years are the only taste of an
honors education for many students. But are these two years
worth it? In a program where the benefits are intentionally
the result of a students' own motivation and attitude, their
answers are mixed.
What Shappirio says he looks for in honors applica-
tions is "students who want to get the most out of their
education, in terms of the ability to think independently in
different disciplines, the ability to write, and the ability to
work independently."
Pollak is a Daily news reporter;
Loznak a staff photographer

challenging courses. I think that in itself is a reward," Chun
said. He is most enthusiastic about honors math and science
courses which often cover the same material in half the time
of.n.standard course',He also said honors math and science
sections approach problems more theoretically.
"Classes in the honors program would tend to orientate
you better for real life," first-year student David Adler said.
But in fields such as economics, political science, and the
humanities, honors classes tend to be offered as separate dis-
cussion sections of non-honors lectures. First-year student
Sara VanLooy said this system "is the equivalent of writing
an extra paper to get an honors credit."
American Culture teaching assistant John Jordan, who
has taught several such honors sections, admitted they
"typically require some additional concrete piece of work
which is usually one more paper or an extra reading. But it's
not the increased level of work, the more difficult work that
you traditionally call "honors" - that doesn't make you any
smarter. It's that the level of preparation and motivation is
so high... when you concentrate good people with each
other they reinforce each other."
Kushigian agrees. "Most of learning takes place in dis-
cussion with one's peers. So if you're talking about a...
section in which everyone is in the honors program, hope-
fully that's an enriching thing. It's not a matter of harder,
it's a matter of more exciting and more intense."
"Overall, the positives that you get out of the experience
make it worth the extra paper," sophomore Jonathan Gold-
stein said.
But other students reflect on their honors discussion
sections like Posthuma: "They all felt this real need to bull-
shit. They would say something just because they wanted to
get a comment in," he said. First-year student Cheryl Levin
laughed about a History 160 section "which begged the TA
for additional reading - even when nobody could finish it
Posthuma said his first-term economics class "was pretty
much a joke to be honors... we maybe had to read more, but
what does that mean?"
Yet Mark Greer, who teaches honors economics this
term, said, "the one additional course pack will give a criti-
cal perspective on things taught in the course... it's almost
a drawback of the regular sections that they don't have such
critical examination."
Shappirio said that extra assignments and extra reading is
more than just "busy work for honors credit."
"I see nothing wrong with the critical. thinking skills, the
independence one would use in forging, for instance, a term-
long research project." But Shappirio adds that he, Kushi-
gian, and other office staff members "try to have a construc-
tive interaction with the people offering honors courses that
might lead to problems. We know we're not perfect," he
The honors brochure says that "perhaps the one most
valuable aspect of the Honors Program that students consis-
tently mention is the high quality of academic counseling
they receive..."
But it seems that students just as consistently mention
their problems with the honors counseling. "To me, (and) to
most people I know in the program," said Levin, "Honors
counselors are a joke. They're not any good at all. Everyone
I know has a horror story about them."
According to Levin, a counselor once called her "insane"
load of four reading courses "skimpy."
"I seriously doubt that I had better counseling. It still
amounts to thF; same 15-minute rigarmarole that everyone
gets," enginecrittg junior Mark Peterman said.
While Shappirio says he has heard only the opposite,
Kushigian explain, Oat the program never promised better
counseling - only good counseling. She says the only dif-
ference between honors and regular LSA counselors are the
ratios: honors counselors have fewer students to deal with.
"I was under the impression that I would get better coun-
seling, better guidance. They've always been really rude ill
the counseling office. They assume that since we're honors
students we know everything about the University," sopho-
more Lainchen Friese said. "I don't think the counseling is
that great at all. They tend to push a lot of hard courses on
And she's right, counselor Bert Hornback said. "There's
absolutely nothing wrong with thinking you can't learn

Honors College Director David Shappirio talks to first-year honors student Barry C
students say one of the advantages of the program is better academic counselling.

anything if you sit there being defensive like most Ameri-
cans are."
Besides classes and counseling, honors students like to
describe the pros and cons of their program in terms of spe-
cial privileges like the myth that honors students don't get
lower than Bs.
"Great Books is especially notorious for that. You have
to do really bad to get less than a B plus," Posthuma said.
Charles Bambach, a Great Books adjunct lecturer, confirms
And so does Kushigian: "I'd say that's true, but it
doesn't mean you can stay away from class and not do the
reading or the work. A student who is accepted into the
honors program. who does their work and does their best is
probably not going to get below a B."
But students say that other "brochure" privileges are less
consistent. Some note that their regular discussion sections
are no larger than the honors ones. Others, like sophomore
David Saltzman, have never had a professor teach a discus-
sion section.
Hornback said professors can be found in the sophomore
honors seminars like Prof. Daniel Fusfeld's Smith, Marx,
and Keynes. Yet Shappirio, who admits the program needs
more seminars and small classes, said, "We always tell stu-
dents - and nobody listens - that sometimes classes are
smaller. They're not always small classes. They're small
when they have to be. We try not to portray it as necessarily
being true."
The one area of the first-year/sophomore program that"
draws no complaint is the Great Books survey, which is
elected by the majority of first-year honors students and sat-
isfies the first-year English 125 requirements.
"I was writing papers on Homer and my non-honors
friends were writing papers on why they came to Michigan,
" engineering junior Brian Krusniak said.
Prof. Don Cameron, who has lectured on Homer, Plato,
and Dante since 1962, said "It was thought useful for honors
students to have a common basis for their conversation in
these great books, books that relate to philosophy, litera-
ture, history, and modern literature."
"I think the Great Books program is really the basis of
honors. Let's say you remove the great books - then what

would the program consist c
That question seems to
dents looking for a firm
tN^ years of the program. ;
hono-, s classes per term for
inar as weir. as maintain a
ors award.. 'gut Shappirio s
sophomores receive the awa
"I think those students
more enriched work in the
some acknowledgement the
above what they needed to i
the award a "silly star that
until you take a shower."
"There aren't many peo
for the award, and the one,
you want," he said.
"The sophomore honor
reasons for being here, and
it. They're here so they c,,
said. But two courses a ter
junior, was confused: "To
structured around fulfilling
that's why I took the classe
concentration. In retrospec
worth it."
There is a significant be
sophomore Eileen Yu, are o
concentrations and "aren't
honors courses a semester,
any bearing."
"It can only help to be
an ID. It's like a pass. If
honors classes, you can. I
though Yu says she has fr
with the same attitude, Hoi
the honors drop rate would 1
But students with this 11
the program, Kushigian adi
a term are asked to leave be
she said.
"Of course, if we notice+
classes, then we'd say son
dents who's using us like d

Classical Studies Prof. Don Cameron conducts a Great Books lecture. The lecture is one of many
prerequisites students must fulfill in the first year and sophomore honors program.



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