School may have been in session for less than a month, but there are already rumbles of burnout and discontent among both faculty and students.
Sources in various departments and disciplines, ranging from senior professors to undergraduate students, are beginning to confirm a problem experts have forewarned for years: the post-pandemic honors classes of 2023 are impossible to teach. And at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the effects of their actions have been catastrophic.
Christine Evans has faithfully served the UW-Madison honors program for too many years, helping guide countless students to graduate school, internships and more. But lately, she’s been spending most of her time at work fighting off droves of complaints from administration and staff.
“It’s nothing like we’ve ever seen before,” Evans said in a 2 a.m. interview behind Washburn Observatory. “Teachers can take a lot: I personally was jumped more than three times by disgruntled students as a Fullbright educator. But say you teach 8 a.m. lecture, and every single student insists on arriving two hours early to prepare themselves for class. It becomes psychological warfare.”
Reports of freshmen honors students asking complex, thoughtful questions in 500-person seminars have skyrocketed, along with more extreme incidents of vibrant course-related engagement in teaching assistants’ discussion sections.
Jo Ramsey is a self-identified “high-achieving” honors sophomore taking one of countless reserved courses offered at UW-Madison. When asked about her experience, she described a harrowing tale of hazing by freshmen honors students which nearly made her drop the class altogether.
“I started the year under the impression that being an older student with the ethnic studies requirement under my belt would make me more knowledgeable about Southeast Asia than my freshmen constituents,” Ramsey said. “But when Professor Cullinane asked us if we could recognize the figurine on his shirt, and every single honors freshman could read the Tagalog description of baby Jesus below the statue, I was humiliated. They all simultaneously looked at me with pity.”
Jenny Saffran, a famous psychologist and head of the honors program at UW-Madison, attributes the issue mainly to online schooling.
“These smartasses spent all those years they were supposed to be optimistic and idealistic asleep on a screen,” she told The Daily Cardinal. “All that wasted intellectual curiosity was shoved to the back burner and has re-manifested itself in a group of insatiable try-hards.”
Saffran also believes that online school has led to improper socialization among freshmen, causing them to lack basic skills which college freshmen typically come in having acquired through high school.
“Many of these nerds have barely been bullied by upperclassmen for showing too much enthusiasm or for raising their hand more than once in two hours,” Saffran said. “Quite frankly, they have no idea how annoying people find them.”
Despite overwhelming evidence speaking to the seriousness of the issue, little action has been taken toward better discipline or education of ‘23 honors freshmen. But there are murmurs of change on the horizon, as revealed by confidential aides close to College of Letters and Science Dean Eric Wilcots.
“The university plans to take severe action against honors freshmen who continue to violate the unspoken academic rules of this school,” Wilcots wrote in a letter to his secretary. “I am going to personally see to it that this institution follows in the footsteps of California’s UC Davis by encouraging organized protest against honors freshmen.”
Starting Oct. 10, UW-Madison policy for seniors, graduate students and professors will be to encourage taunting, booing and jeering at freshmen students walking over Bascom Hill to classes. Anybody with documented evidence that they caused an emotional breakdown in an honors student will be rewarded tuition assistance.
“For the betterment of our campus community, we must enact immediate institutional reform,” Dean Wilcots said in a statement to the Cardinal. “I never thought it would be under my leadership. But as former President Barack Obama so aptly put: we are the change we seek.”
Honors freshmen students seeking to opt out from the new harassment policy may choose to do so by choosing from a limited selection of pro-hazing, house fellow-led roundtables meeting every Sunday at an undisclosed location.