The Dark Side of Rhodes

<p>Most of the postings about Rhodes College appear to be from or about students who are towards the top of the admit pool, receive merit aid awards, and are generally happy with their experience at Rhodes. While Rhodes can be an excellent choice for the right student, it may not be a good choice for those in the bottom half of the admit pool, for whom Rhodes can be a trap. Rhodes accepts these students in order to make ends meet, but has constructed a rigid, inflexible and legalistic academic environment that makes it difficult for them to succeed at Rhodes.</p>

<p>So, for example, Rhodes promulgates a 400 page document entitled "Course Catalogue", a good portion of which contains arcane rules for the successful completion of a Rhodes degree. These rules are so minute and exhaustive that you practically need a lawyer to make sense of them, and Rhodes offers no flexibility in their implementation. As a result, a student may earn a B for his work in a class, as my son did, but find a D on his transcript-- due in one case solely to three class absences, and in another case due solely to his turning in a rough draft of what was ultimately to be a three page final paper, and finding the professor remeasured his four page rough draft at 3 3/4ths pages, rather than the required four pages.</p>

<p>It is sometimes said that Rhodes is hard, and I don't mean to imply that it is easy (though it is certainly not as challenging as the Ivy League school attended by my older daughter), but these are not issues of academic difficulty. They are instead issues of institutional philosophy. In other words, Rhodes is not hard because the academic material is overly challenging, but instead because it is difficult for many to fulfill to the letter the many, many non-subtantive hurdles that are erected on an institutional basis. In this regard, I also note that the advising system at Rhodes is shockingly weak, which may not be an impediment to the top students, but leaves those students who actually need help floundering.</p>

<p>I will close with one final anecdote. My son had no prior experience with organized religion or with reading the Bible, but was interested in learning about both, so freshman year he enrolled in the Life sequence to fulfill the Rhodes Foundational Requirement. To his surprise, he found that every other student in the class had completed 10 years of Bible study before arriving at Rhodes, and that he was at a tremendous disadvantage in the class. When he shared his concerns with the professor and indicated his intention to withdraw from the course, the professor became angry and told him not to drop the class. Not being a very strong personality, he stayed in the class, and needless to say received a poor grade.</p>

<p>The bottom line is that for those students who are not extremely capable, well-organized, detail-oriented and ambitious, Rhodes is probably a place to be avoided.</p>

<p>Greenwood: Thanks for your post. My D is headed to Rhodes this fall, and I am a professor (though not at Rhodes) so your comments have given me a few things to think about. I do agree that Rhodes's degree requirements are the most complex I have seen anywhere. Your complaint about your son's grade being docked for attendance, though, does not seem to be related to these complex requirements. I would hope that the class's attendance policy was spelled out in the syllabus. (I also deduct points for unexcused absences, and I am inflexible about implementing this policy, but I do tell students about the policy on day one.) I have heard a few ancedotal stories about students getting waivers for certain requirements, but they had asked in advance, not after the fact. For example, I met a junior last year who had been granted a waiver of the senior year residency requirement so that she could study abroad this fall. </p>

<p>I do wonder how much of the difficulty your son has encountered at Rhodes, he would encounter at most any college. I treat my students like adults--I expect them to have read the syllabus and to come to me before any problems occur, if at all possible. I don't think you will find many professors anywhere who are very sympathetic to students who don't follow the rules and who then want "flexibility."</p>

<p>Rhodes has a very nice computer generated easily accessible monitoring system for tracking your progress in meeting graduation requirements. (I just asked D. Degreeworks and maybe something called webstep.)</p>

<p>I was very impressed. I'm sorry you son had difficulty. I think it will get better as he gets more classes on the board. </p>

<p>As far as flexibility , I know that some of my D's requests for waivers and exceptions were granted , and some were not. </p>

<p>As to the "Life..." class being full of Bible scholars.....I think drop/add could have handled that if he was overwhelmed by the other students' "preparation". My D had a wonderful experience in the other course sequence..."Search....". </p>

<p>Lest folks get the wrong idea, Rhodes is far from being a religious campus, but I would think that some of those coming in with strong Bible backgrounds might choose Life over Search. Like the OP's kid mine took the sequence where she knew very little coming in, but unlike the OP's she loved the exploration so much she ended up minoring in Religious Studies with several courses in the Qu'ran and Eastern religions (and none exclusively in Christianity). </p>

<p>I'm sure the experiences of the OP's son are genuine and they form the basis for what I think is a cautionary tale for all students, at all schools. Learn the rules before the consequences are finalized. Learn to advocate for yourself. Inaction can be fatal. </p>

<p>In my D's experience, Rhodes advising was excellent (and from what I've seen, much better than many schools of her peers) but if it hadn't been, and the on-line resources didn't solve it, she'd be counseled by me to be on the Dean's doorstep until it was fixed. Speak up for yourself. Don't go quietly.</p>

<p>Rhodes curriculum is not "open". Their brand of Liberal Arts education (for one example) requires students to take courses in several fields. As you bump up against these requirements there is bound to be friction. For another, Rhodes requires as much writing as any school I've seen (Hamilton is similar).</p>

<p>OP. I don't know why the gratuitous "not an IVY" dig was in there :confused: , but I can assure you my D feels very prepared as she heads to her med school in the fall. Ivy league prepared? lol Well...I guess we'll find out soon enough.</p>

<p>And OP. I can't resist. Maybe the experiences in the Life class are hyperbolized ....just a little. "The Dark Side?"
To his surprise, he found that every other student in the class had completed 10 years of Bible study before arriving at Rhodes, and that he was at a tremendous disadvantage in the class.

Every student? 10 years? Really?</p>

<p>Just got back from a Rhodes visit and I have a little trouble believing every student had studied the Bible for 10 years. We're Presbyterians and believe me they're not an overly Bible studying lot. Maybe a few weeks prior to confirmation as 13 year olds but even that was more a study of being a presbyterian in today's world. The kids we met were a range of all degrees of faith- that was totally refreshing.</p>

<p>Dork (sorry, I couldn't resist): What Greenwood is talking about is a little different than the whole student body. All first-year students must choose one of two tracks to fulfill a foundation requirement: "Life" or "Search." Both are a series of three courses. I actually don't know a whole heck of a lot about Life because D has been clear that she wants Search, but from what I understand Life is an in-depth study of the Bible (among some other things?). Students in Search read parts of the Bible too, as well as a host of philosophers. And I love that they read the actual works by Socrates and Plato and Aristotle (in translation, of course), not a pre-digested textbook summary of what the works say. From what I picked up, it does seem like the more religiously conservative students tend to choose the Life track, but I would be surprised if there were not exceptions in both directions.</p>

<p>I've just attended day 1 of the student/parent orientation for my class of 2010 dd and I was impressed by the whole organizational structure. My thoughts:</p>

<p>-advising seems great, particularly in comparison to my 'big state U' college experience which was completely nonexistent. It was a miracle that I graduated in 4 years.</p>

<p>-dd has attended a private, religious school for 12 years- and has chosen the 'search' track. She's no biblical scholar by any means!</p>

<p>-college is difficult for any kid 'in the bottom half' of any admit pool. OP is correct- unless there's a lot of support for them, they struggle.</p>

<p>Rhodes seems great so far!</p>

<p>I do believe the Search Sequence was as awakening an experience educationally as my D has had. So far. Bio major who through this transforming experience went on to take courses studying Confucius, Women in Chinese Literature, Modern Islam, some sort of Politics of Peru in the 1800's Latin American History course, and many others (while maintaining her status as a Princess of the Research Nerds). I really appreciate that my D is far more aware of the larger world outside her science geekdom than I would have ever thought possible. </p>

<p>Her high school mentor (a calc teacher) had counseled her not attend a tech (brain in a jar) school but to go to a school where she could "throw things against the wall to see what sticks". </p>

<p>Perfect for everybody? Obviously not. Not for the OP's kid and certainly some others. No place is perfect. Not the Ivy's and not Rhodes. But still, I'm so excited for your kids. They are in a great place. My kid doesn't regret a day.</p>

<p>So for future reference, curmudgeon, what kinds of waivers or exceptions did your D request? I would think that one of the advantages of a small school is that a reasonable request would be given reasonable consideration. </p>

<p>And congratulations to your D on her med school success! It must have been at least a little difficult to turn down Yale for undergrad; there seems to be a sort of completeness to her going to med school there.</p>

It must have been at least a little difficult to turn down Yale for undergrad; there seems to be a sort of completeness to her going to med school there.

It was easy for her, hard for me. ;) She's really looking forward to her 4-5 years at Yale but is VERY proud of her UG school.</p>

<p>Oops. Forgot to answer your question. D'uh. </p>

<p>Little stuff mostly. An example, senior year she still needed a course to meet a requirement and didn't like the ones offered as much as one she was ineligible for by classification. She applied for and got a waiver. At the same time, the reason she applied for THAT waiver is that she couldn't get a prior waiver granted avoiding the degree requirement altogether (which may have worked had she made the effort PRIOR to taking the class she was trying to get "qualified"). </p>

<p>And she got some research approved for IS credits kinda as it was happening. </p>

<p>And (prior) waivers of attendance policies senior year for interviews (but she always took the tests/turned in papers early, not late). </p>

<p>Hmmm. Think. Think. Sorry. I'm sloughing off brain cells pretty rapidly these days. </p>

<p>I can think of more things she tried that were NOT approved, but dang. That doesn't fit in that well with the point I'm trying to make. lol. But she had the support of the faculty and her advisors on all of these. </p>

<p>I read D the posts on the thread. She said that it's likely the syllabus spelled out the absence policy and it was likely the rough draft policy was spelled out, too. She wasn't that sympathetic. She said that if the attendance policy is not in the syllabus , the prof's can't do that. Should have challenged it. Use rules against rules. (She learned well. ;)) She also said that she never had a class where 3 absences docked a grade. After 3, yes. But not 3.</p>

<p>Again. Be pro-active. Be your own advocate. Don't stick your head in the sand. I can't imagine how a student who didn't have these life skills could even survive at a large school.</p>

<p>But again. ;) Rhodes isn't a perfect place for everybody. No place is.</p>

<p>Thanks, Curmudgeon. I actually don't anticipate D wanting many waivers (at least not any time soon). Oddly, Rhodes's really long list of foundation requirements fits her interests pretty well.</p>