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Academic Forum confronts tough issues

Senior and SGA President Justin Tomevi had a vision of confronting the administration on potentially serious issues before his May graduation.

This developed into an academic forum where students and faculty could ask questions regarding issues such as academic dishonesty, academic quality and scholarships to athletes.

SGA organized the event, held on Tuesday, March 31.

The evening’s moderator, junior Josh Sholly, began the discussion by raising the concern that plagiarism is a common occurrence in Eastern classrooms.

Vice President of Student Development Bettie Ann Brigham said that she has not received enough complaints to support this claim. “If students are concerned, they haven’t been bringing it to our attention,” she said.

Chancellor Chris Hall said he was surprised when he arrived at Eastern and discovered that students cheated in their classes.

“Over the years, it’s been disheartening for me,” Hall said. “I think this is something we need to figure out.”

Sophomore Chis Lozinak said that cheating is much more prevalent at Eastern than at the community college he transferred from.

“I’ve never seen anyone get in really serious trouble for cheating here,” Lozinak said.

Once, when Lozinak approached a student about cheating, the student said, “No one’s gotten caught for that yet.”

The next topic of discussion was academic quality. Dr. Van Weigel commented that he has observed a drop in the academic quality of students at Eastern over the past decade. He partly attributed this to what he sees as poor high school education.

When junior Jonathan Ebersole asked the panel, “Is 32,000 dollars worth it for the education here?” the audience acknowledged his question with applause.

Dr. Kathy Lee said that this kind of statement suggests a customer mindset, which she thinks is ineffective.

“The quality of education that I get at a university has a lot to do with me,” Lee said.

A student does not get the education he is paying for if he skips classes and other opportunities to learn, such as Windows on the World.

A question that created particular controversy was whether or not athletes are secretly offered scholarships or financial aid, which is strictly against NCAA policy for Division III schools.

“Coaches sometimes serve as inside advocates,” Lee said about the admissions process. “They know who they want here.”

When asked if coaches speak with him, Director of Admissions Dave Urban said, “Not that it affects the [financial] package. The only coaches looking at financial aid would be those working in the admissions office.”

“They shouldn’t be working in the admissions office,” Dr. Mary Van Leeuwen said.

King pointed out that the distinction between the financial aid office and the admissions office needs to be understood. The lacrosse coach working in admissions, King said, is not involved with deciding financial aid awards.

Senior Frank Rodgers gave a testimony of a high school friend who failed out of high school, was, at the time, failing community college courses, and was still offered a large scholarship to attend Eastern.

“I don’t really understand how this kid got here,” Rodgers said.

The student was a standout soccer player in high school, and was advised to drop the community college courses he was struggling with in order to receive the scholarship.

In response to the student being advised to drop the courses he was failing, Brigham said. “He’s being advised, but he’s not being awarded the aid.”

“What we have here is the possibility of blurring boundaries that may need to be investigated here,” Van Leeuwen said.

“There are more questions that need to be answered,” Tomevi said afterwards. “I’m very hopeful that whoever is in charge of Student Government Association will continue with these discussions next year.”

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