Letter: “Free pass” insults U of C mission

“Free pass” wrongly argues in favor of diluting the Core and University academic standards

By Alex Wilhelm

After reading the excellent, and quietly eviscerating, op-ed by Ajay Batra concerning the marked decline in U of C culture due to changing admissions standards, I was affronted by the ridiculous article that the Maroon’s editorial board foisted on our community under the title of “Free Pass.”

Their misguided idea was to unilaterally grant incoming freshmen a free quarter by making their first academic unit at this school pass/fail, as opposed to what is called “for a quality grade.”

What nonsense. The fatuity of the idea is even more apparent after a read of Ajay’s piece, as the two are quite connected. The University of Chicago has always been a place for those of the mind to live that experience fully, while the rest of the world could get hung. It wasn’t the most popular idea, and so this university remained not as famous as its peers. Fair enough, but it was our idea. Now, as our status has amplified, and the résumé polishers are beginning to deposit themselves on our Quad to burnish their careerist signposts, we have a slight issue.

In the face of that, to further dilute the most sacred part of our academic experience, the Core, is, frankly, to surrender again on what makes the U of C what it is.

The idea comes with good intentions, as most bad concepts do. In this case, under the aegis of “transition,” students would be granted this free ticket to a quarter of leisure and not fretting about essay scores. I think that if you cannot handle the first quarter of this university, then you should not have been admitted. The process of admission should have weeded you out.

That we are having this discussion points to a real, and honest, degeneration in the quality of incoming students. And this as we increase our enrollment. Something is going fetid in the state of Denmark.

Mr. Batra rightly points out that the last class to have applied with the Uncommon Application is about to exit the stage. One wonders what act comes next.

Alex Wilhelm

Class of 2012