A student survey on the LAU Beirut campus confirmed that many LAU students target easy A courses to improve their GPAs and study less.
The surveyed students shed light on 34 different courses that they referred to as “easy A” classes. These range from Computer Applications and Business Etiquette and Protocol to Chemistry 200 and Design 1A and 1B.
The reason students run after these courses is to get high grades, making up for lower ones, and to spare time for work on major courses.
The upper administration and some instructors seemed unaware of this issue until I brought it up to them.
Said El Fakhani, the new dean of the school of business, told me he has to check for evidence when I asked him about this issue. He opened his computer and looked up for business courses I designated as easy A classes.
Business Etiquette and Protocol was one of them. “Two sections had huge number of As while three other sections taught by a different professor had a huge number of Bs,” he told me. “As an example, one out of the three sections had the following: 5 As, 18 Bs and 6 Cs. You have it right!”
He explained that he will discuss the issue with concerned instructors to understand the logic behind it and then look into the syllabus to check the course’s assessment tools. He added that the nature of the course reveals whether the student had acquired the concepts involved or not.
“I am glad you mentioned this to me,” he said, looking at me. “I will investigate all these issues and any illegitimate grading system will be stopped.”
Many students who take easy A courses do so because of their tough majors.
“At LAU, we have a lot of electives and I would prefer not to study for some since I am unconcerned with them and my major is already tough,” a senior interior architecture who refused to give his name said.
Others just want an easy way out. A marketing junior student who preferred to remain anonymous explained that he takes easy A courses because instructors typically give the notes and the exams are straightforward. “It is just a course and so far I don’t regret it,” she said, smiling.
The issue suggests that many students at LAU aim for high grades rather than education itself. “As an advisor for communication arts students, I am always frustrated to see that students care more about the grades they will get than about the education the course will bring them,” Yasmine Dabbous, assistant professor of journalism and media studies, said.
Dabbous added that she often advises students to use their free electives to form a specialization they could use later in their careers. Many, however, go for easy A courses.
According to the Tribune survey, the courses mentioned by students abound in various departments. LAU instructors were surprised to hear that their courses were among the ones designated by students.
Afif Hachem, an LAU chef who teaches Food Preparation I and II and Baking Pastry and Chocolate said that he is very frustrated about the allegations, since his courses are practical and do not indeed require hours of studying. “All they need is basic knowledge, creativity and passion for food,” he said.
“This reputation was created because of the students’ excitement about hands on experience, in addition to the education,” Hachem added.
Hachem said that the courses he gives teach students to observe strict regulations. Young men, for example, have to shave their beards regularly and young women must abstain from using nail polish. Students must learn not to taste the food during the preparation process, have the uniform on, stop using cel phones, and so on.
“A student who comes in late has to chop onions as a punishment,” he smiled.
Music professors were unavailable for interview although Survey of Western Music and Survey of Middle Eastern Music are among of the students’ favored easy A courses, the survey confirmed.
Mona Nabahani, an associate professor of education, explained that class assessment should be relevant to the learning outcomes of the course. It is more than just a simple performance.
“This has become a trend in the education department,” she said.
Nabahani said that, if the outcome is relevant to the output of the course, you can’t but give As. She refused the generalization that LAU professors easily give As but said that some students look for professors who are easier than others.
“Some students shoot for the courses that don’t require much to pull their GPAs,” Nabahani said.
She added that she doesn’t know any instructor with this kind of reputation here.
Students however revealed that they do shoot for LAC electives “with easy A professors.”
A student who took music as an art elective, admitted that he learned nothing in class. All he remembers, he said, is how the professor looks.
“The professor didn’t take the course seriously and was irresponsible during the exam,” he said.
A biology junior student who refused to give her name said that she doesn’t target easy A courses but rather easy A instructors. She added that she prefers to take courses that require analysis rather than memorization.
“I didn’t learn anything,” she said about LAC electives. “They are not related to my field but I still have to take them.”
The dean of business promised to find a solution to this problem and assured me that he will hopefully solve the problem within the coming few months.
“There is a plan to restrict access to business courses to what liberal arts students need,” El Fakhani said.
He added that non-business students who are interested in business will have to choose courses within a specific list of general courses that will introduce them to the field.
As the interview came to an end, El Fakhani thanked me for opening his eyes to this issue and followed me to the door. He then stopped to say he was on his way to the hospitality management chair to address this problem.
By Zeina Shehayeb
LAU Tribune staff