Print Edition: April 10, 2013
The philosophy of the “first year experience” in which students have the opportunity to exercise curiosity and expand awareness is one that UFV nominally supports. It’s a period of one’s life dedicated to exercising curiosity, a time of exploration and discovery; ideally, first year students have the opportunity to shop around and discover different areas of interest, before fully situating themselves in a program.
But what is the reality? It seems many students are punished if they are not ready to be streamlined into a program of their choice. In fact, more and more, UFV expects its new students to be readily “programmed,” having selected and declared a program path before they’ve taken the time to shop around. Or, in another meaning of the word, “programmed,” like a computer: a machine or robot, intent on certification, focused solely from the very start on battling its way into the job market. Because if you aren’t already with the program—if you expect to be able to take your time and learn about yourself while selecting a variety of subjects to delve into—expect also to be forever waitlisted as a general studies student or undeclared major.
This dilemma for the student could kill the love of learning before it takes its first breath. Your fate: being stuck in the most basic and boring of mandatory first year courses, unable to register for a class that you are genuinely interested in.
Statistics Canada reports a drop-out rate of 30 per cent among first year university students. This reflects the uncertainty of that period of one’s life; as you enter university, you are not only trying to determine a career, but also trying to differentiate yourself and find a passion. In other words, fall in love with learning.
A high drop-out rate should not be taken as collateral damage; it’s an opportunity that the university is missing out on by not allowing students a chance first to steady themselves in university life.
This is an issue that is to some extent out of the university’s hands; the lack of funding given to universities provincially reflects our government’s lack of respect for education and higher learning.
But UFV does have a say in the student experience. While we may have began as a a community college reaching out to community members and allowing anyone, whatever their academic background, to enter the institution, things have changed. With UFV’s switch to a university status, this philosophy has to be modified. A more competitive entry could be considered among other solutions.
Students who are not streamlined and committed to being programmed should not be penalized for their indecision, but rather should be facilitated in their desire to explore.
What else is a university for?