All students who sign on to the Stern Honors Program are informed that they are making a commitment to do three things.
- 1. To take seven Honors courses over the span of time you are here (it makes no difference if you are a freshman or an Israel returnee)
2. To attend five-six Honors events during each semester you are here (these range from speeches to operas)
3. To write a senior thesis
I do not think it is legitimate, however, to have joined the program with full knowledge of its requirements and to do one of the following two things:
- 1. Decide in your last year (that is, once you are a senior) that you don't feel like writing a senior thesis because it's too much work- and therefore drop the program
2. Have no intention of ever finishing the program, but stay in it for the benefits and opportunities it offers you
While I do not approve of the idea that someone should have the ability to drop the program once the going gets tough, I absolutely hate the idea of someone knowing from the beginning that they have no intention of completing it, and remaining in it because they have decided to act as an opportunist. I think that is reprehensible, misleading and wrong.
It is especially wrong in terms of the Stern program due to the opportunities offered. They will pay for our $65 opera tickets. They will pay our admission to the Guggenheim, pay so we can see the American Ballet Theater production; in other words, because we are part of the Honors program, we receive these special monetary opportunities.
How can someone take a $65 opera ticket (paid for by the Honors Program) in good faith when she has absolutely no intention of finishing the program? That is truly unethical! You claim to have made a commitment; you claim to be participating in this program, but you aren't really. You're not committed. You have no intention of finishing, of writing your Honor's Thesis. Instead, you are acting as an opportunist. The only reason you stay in this program is because you are selfish, you want to take advantage of the Honor's courses, you want to take advantage of their shelling out money for you to see shows and operas, you want to take advantage of the special speakers, and you want to do all of this without any form of extra hassle. Oh, you could still take Honors courses if your GPA were high enough...but you'd have to go to that extra work of filling out a form, getting a teacher's signature, and you don't want to do that.
So instead you lie. Because by remaining in that program, you represent yourself as something you're not. You're pretending that you're in this for the long run, but you're not. You know you're going to quit; you're planning on dropping out.
There is a Judaic law that one is not allowed to walk into a shop if one has no plans on purchasing anything there, because it gives the owner false hope. How much the more so in this situation- how dare you pretend that you are going to remain in the Honors Program (thereby allowing YU to boast that yet another student has matriculated from it) when you have no intention of finishing? That is lying. That is lying by omission. Because if they knew that you had no plans of finishing, why would they spend money on you? Why would they give you the $65 opera tickets, why would they allow you to attend the special lectures and events?
It is also my impression that scholarships are linked to the program. Indeed, the very application seems to indicate this:
- Candidates for the Honors Program are automatically considered for highly competitive academic scholarships. Acceptance into the Honors Program and awards of scholarships are determined by the Faculty Honors Committee. Committee members take into account high school average, standardized test scores, content of letters of nomination, extra-curricular activities, leadership potential, and quality of personal interview.
If that is true, it is even more reprehensible to apply to the Honors Program without planning on completing it, because you have placed yourself in a position where you are taking the money because you were "automatically considered" due to your application while another applicant may not have received as much money. And that is because they truthfully did not apply to a program they had no intention of completing.
Others tell me I am incorrect in this assumption, and say that the scholarships are not linked to the Honors Program specifically, citing as proof the fact that people who drop out of the program get to keep their money. They may be correct in that there may not be a separate pool for Honors Program students as opposed to regular students. Nevertheless, they are "automatically" considered while other students may not be- due to their Honors Program application.
Schoolmates of mine have informed me that those in charge of the Honors Program "don't make it difficult for you to drop out in senior year" and "if they don't want you to drop out, then they should make a rule against it." I personally find this to be a weak excuse. Commitments ought not to be undertaken lightly. If someone commits to the Honors Program, that person ought to have in mind its completion. If there are extenuating circumstances, if you did not know of the requirements when you embarked upon the program, that is one thing. But if you knew the rules- you knew what was expected to begin with- then how can you possibly complain? You knew what you were getting yourself into when you signed on to this. Yes, the rules do not prevent you from dropping the program, but this is not a question of rules. It is a question of your word.
How much is your word worth? I do not recall having to sign anything when it came to the Honors Program, but I certainly gave my verbal agreement. I was informed of the three commitments I would be making and I assented. Once I have assented, the deal is done, and only extenuating factors beyond my control, as far as I am concerned, ought to change it. If the work is too hard, I will realize that within my first couple of semesters, and as soon as I realize it, I will drop the program. If I do not like the idea of taking seven Honors courses over my time here, after having initially thought I could manage it, then I will drop it. But how can you justify staying in the program until your senior year, and then, only then, deciding that it's too much and you don't want to commit?
And how can you possibly justify misrepresenting yourself and taking advantage by remaining in the program when you have no intention of completing it?
I do not care how easy it is to drop the program. I do not care that their rules may be unfair, that you may not like the idea of having to take seven Honors courses, even if they are areas outside of your area of interest. I do not care that they let you keep the scholarship money. This is not the issue. The issue has nothing to do with them. It has to do with you. It has to do with your honor. It has to do with how much you value your word.
I do not make commitments lightly. I do my best to keep my word. I am not always successful, but I have the intention to try to do what is right. It is a matter of self-respect.
I do not think I have absurdly high standards. I do not think it is strange to believe that a person should not act in an opportunistic fashion, should not benefit from a program when she has no intention of giving back to the university that made it possible, has no intention of completing it.
However, at the moment I seem to be the only one holding this position. Nobody else I have spoken with appears to find anything wrong with taking advantage for three years and dropping the program in the fourth year, or participating in it from the beginning with the full intention of leaving it before one has to do anything strenuous.
So tell me, what is your opinion on the matter?