If you think higher education is expensive….

Ashley Westbrook is a senior journalism major and staff writer for The Journal

Daniel Schwartz is suing Webster University because he was denied graduation. According to his lawsuit, he failed his last counseling class because he “lacked empathy.”  Schwartz is pointing his finger at Webster because he feels the university failed to properly educate him and, therefore, his lack of empathy isn’t his fault. Schwartz is arguing for damages, and seems to think that a school is responsible for the education of their students. Schwartz, you are not alone on this idea.
I dish out about $22,000 per year at Webster as an undergraduate taking five classes a semester — and that doesn’t account for the fees and the books. So when I show up for class in August and I don’t receive a proper education because my teacher fails to provide me with the education I need, angry doesn’t describe the strong emotions I feel.
I went to a public high school for four years with reduced lunch, so I didn’t have to come out of pocket for anything. The first year I had to catch the Metro bus home. My school gave free two-week bus passes to students who were deemed “low-income,” like myself. I valued my free education at my high school and couldn’t wait to start my college life. So, now that I attend Webster and I have to pay out of pocket for my education, I have several requirements for my university, and learning is my top priority.
Every semester when I reluctantly place myself in debt, I walk into class having a certain expectation. I attend class to learn. I want a professor who wants to be there, who can’t wait to show up for class to teach their students and who isn’t worried about how many of us turn in assignments, and focus on the material being taught.
At Webster I’ve encountered different types of professors. I’ve met professors who will bend over backwards for students so they pass, to a fault even. I’ve met professors with high and low expectations of their students. We have professors that aren’t lenient at all and it’s their way or the highway. The last one doesn’t work for me.
Students shouldn’t have to walk a fine line to please professors, but curriculum also shouldn’t be so easy that the kid in the back sleeping still passes the class. I want balance. I want a small four-month challenge because life is a challenge. When a professor or a university fails to bring all the tools necessary to their students, it’s understandable if a student decides to stand up and make noise about what they don’t approve of.
I am in the school of communications at Webster and, like Schwartz, I had to take a practicum in order to receive my degree. I had to receive an A or B in order to qualify for graduation. While in class, the idea hung over my head that if I failed I’d have to scramble to make it up my final semester to receive my degree. If I failed because the school thought I didn’t apply my knowledge correctly when I knew I did, we’d have a problem. The problem is subjectivity.
I volunteer at my old high school to help students get into college. The one thing about my students that amazes me is how vocal they are. If I’m not making sense they will shout, “Aye man, try that again,” or “Hey, this is ridiculous. Start over.” Could you imagine that happening at a class at Webster?
But, too often students aren’t eager to ask questions, so they have to ask fellow classmates to explain the lecture. I’m not slamming my hands down on a desk and rising in a furious temper with a crooked finger pointed at Webster or the professors that work here. I’m saying students should voice their concerns if they felt their education was lacking. They should do so often and early, which is something Mr. Schwartz failed to do. $11,000 is a lot of money, and it’s only right that you feel you’re getting your money’s worth.

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  1. Ms. Westbrook didn’t read the original article very well. She made a few valid points about voicing concerns.

    First, his name is David, not Daniel Schwartz.
    Second, he took out loans so that he could go to school full-time and had a 3.78 GPA until his practicum.

    As for speaking out, he was apparently incensed that his program director was dating a rather inept teacher. He did protest vocally and in writing, and he alleges that he was dismissed thereafter.

    If you read the article carefully and the court petition, he notes that they promised to work with him to increase his skills, but they dismissed him and denied him due process in their own remediation policy. The court petition and the article are rather damaging to Webster.

    I will agree with Ms. Westbrook that the damages will be high, however I hope that Webster will have enough sense to settle with him. Why did they waste his time and the school’s in taking someone without empathy? If it can’t be taught, either they should have spotted the problem long before or worked with him. For Schwartz, Webster really let him down. He may not get damages, but they shouldn’t have taken his money and time if they didn’t screen him as unfit, and they broke their promise to work with him.

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