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What your tour guides don’t tell you about Case Western

The Elephant in the Room

Andrew Breland

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A couple of years ago, a professor told me that newly hired faculty at Case Western Reserve University are told “You can assign lots of work and reading. Students here don’t do anything but study. They use all their time to study and read for class.”

Sadly, this image is not nearly that of the typical CWRU student. The people I have met here are some of the most involved and community-oriented students in the nation. But the workload put on students is enough to have us ranked in the top one percent of “Least Manageable Workloads” among 1,380 colleges in the country. We fall above such “easy” schools as Carnegie Mellon, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Chicago and all but one of the Ivy League schools (sorry, Columbia).

Students applying to and visiting CWRU are promised years of class work balanced with plenty of time for extracurricular activities, a social life and a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, the truth is far from this. There’s an old college adage that seems to fit here “Good grades, a social life and sleep – you can only pick two.”

But this isn’t nearly the only false promise made to the prospective students of CWRU.

Students touring the university and thinking of applying to spend four years at the university are showered in the knowledge of our “library that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week” and the “great food we have on campus run by Bon Appétit.” We hear about the 500 pages of free printing per semester and the fantastic SAGES program that everyone enjoys and uses for the rest of their lives (in the interest of honesty, I must confess that I am a tour guide for the university and have said each of these things numerous times in the interest of keeping my job).

But what students do not hear is that the library is completely closed during university holidays (Labor Day, anyone?) and there are no 24/7 hours during breaks, both instances where students are more than likely to use the space. Finding assistance in the library is nearly impossible, as librarians remain cloistered upstairs in a locked room, leaving students with the displeasing choice of asking fellow students or bona fide office assistants working the front desk.

Bon Appétit, our “fabulous” food provider, is one of the worst institutions on campus, preventing other (read: cheaper) food options from encroaching on their monopoly. While putting up a façade of “listening to students” Bon Appétit serves the same thing day after day. Students will complain by the second month of the semester that the food is terrible and boring. But the management never responds.

And who can forget the 500 pages of free printing, only accessible on printers that are broken about 80 percent of the time. And the SAGES program, the biggest joke of an institution on campus, which forces students to take uninteresting classes from largely unprepared individuals, simultaneously removing time that could otherwise be spent in a major or minor class that would actually prepare students for life after graduation. Proponents of the program claim that it teaches students to write and communicate. But sadly, all it has taught me is that engineers and humanities majors should never be taught writing techniques in the same class.

This is not to say, though, that all my experiences at CWRU have been bad. I’ve met friends that will last a lifetime, been taught by professors who have challenged my thinking and forced me to become a more worldly thinker and gotten involved in organizations that have allowed me to travel nearly 10,000 miles in my first two years all the while maintaining a course load requiring approximately 1,000 pages of reading a week. And yes, I have even had a good SAGES class, although this was mostly in part due to the inventiveness and creativity of the professor and not the SAGES curriculum, which we wholly ignored (for the most part) in the course.

To supplement the dearth of assistance and experience provided by the university, I have reached out to professors and students alike. In a few professors, I have found mentors and friends I will keep for years. They have opened doors and suggested paths that have put me on the road to being a more successful person, and I’ve heard some great stories along the way. With friends, I have found some of the most reliable people imaginable – a second family, one could say. And despite the university’s efforts to inundate students to the point where none of this is a possibility, I have found success.

For the next few months, this column will focus on the parts of campus people do not want to talk about, from the unspoken truths among students to the insane and debilitating struggle to find something to do in Cleveland, Ohio. I love Case Western and I cannot imagine going to school anywhere else. Sometimes, I just imagine a better situation than the one we’re in right now. I look forward to further exploring, enjoying and critiquing the many sides of our lives at CWRU.

Andrew Breland is a junior planning to triple major in political science, English and history. At CWRU, Andrew serves as the vice president of the Case College Republicans and the treasurer for the Case Western Mock Trial Team. After graduation, Andrew plans to attend law school and pursue a career as a civil litigation attorney specializing in Tort defense.

7 Comments

7 Responses to “What your tour guides don’t tell you about Case Western”

  1. Ava Kotvas on September 9th, 2013 9:46 pm

    So, ignoring the stuff about Bon Appetit (though I do not agree with this article about it.)…
    I would like to say something about the library services. There are plenty of people willing and able to help you on the first floor. The second floor isn’t trying to lock up these services- they are the people who are in charge of running the library- acquisitions, metadata, finances, etc. So while they are also more than willing to help you, there is a reason that they are in offices.
    Also, from my experience, the library is almost deserted when it is open over breaks.
    (Source: 2+ years working on the second floor of the library).

  2. Schuyler Thompson on September 9th, 2013 10:31 pm

    >Andrew Breland is a junior planning to triple major in political science, English and history.

    Well there’s your first mistake. You really have some gall complaining about work when you’re a triple major.

    The biggest problem that people at Case have is their lack of time management skills. They become ridiculously over-involved, triple majoring, and joining 5 clubs, mostly for the resume boost. They then complain they have no time, and are pulling all nighters. Well duh.

    >But what students do not hear is that the library is completely closed during university holidays (Labor Day, anyone?) and there are no 24/7 hours during breaks, both instances where students are more than likely to use the space. Finding assistance in the library is nearly impossible, as librarians remain cloistered upstairs in a locked room, leaving students with the displeasing choice of asking fellow students or bona fide office assistants working the front desk.

    Ok, where’s the money going to come from to pay the people working during the holidays? Show me the budget. Also, the word you are looking for is glorified, not bona fide.

    >And who can forget the 500 pages of free printing, only accessible on printers that are broken about 80 percent of the time.

    That hasn’t been true for over a semester.

  3. Phillip DeBauche on September 9th, 2013 10:45 pm

    Andrew, you left off the part about that meth lab underneath the library…

  4. Christine Mihelin-Kos on September 9th, 2013 11:31 pm

    Yes, the tour was a lot different and far from the truth. There is definitely a problem at CWRU and it needs to be corrected and wonder if it ever will be. Being a triple major certainly has no room for extra curricular activities, but know many with “normal” course load and only one major, who have NO time for anything but to study all day, all night. It is not good to be on life overload and are not having that good “college” experience.

  5. Tyne Brandon on September 9th, 2013 11:45 pm

    This is exactly how I feel.

    The professors and students are great… the little things suck and aren’t managed well.

  6. Pranav Joshi on September 10th, 2013 12:01 am

    Amen

  7. Daoning Zhou on September 10th, 2013 3:31 pm

    Let me explain why this article is bad. All bad.

    1) Heavy Workload.
    Breland is a triple major and holds two executive positions in two clubs. Despite all this he is saying that there is not enough time to do extracurriculars.

    2) KSL
    I’ll grant that KSL isn’t open 24/7 on holidays. But go to KSL during their open hours on holidays and you’ll see why. The claim that “a lot of students will use KSL during holidays” is frivolous at best. For anyone on campus, Wade and Fribley are open and have ample studying space. There is no point to be made here except that “I don’t want KSL to be closed because I said so.”
    As a tour guide, if you’re really that bothered by saying 24/7, you can add that 24/7 doesn’t apply to holidays.

    3) WEPA / Printing.
    http://students.case.edu/services/wepa/
    This will show which printers are up and which ones are down. However, if you wait until the last minute to print something and your *specific* location’s printer is down, you’re responsible for not planning ahead.

    I also just chatted with WEPA and as far as they know there aren’t major issues. Meaning that any downtime was able to be resolved by CWRU (like refilling paper).
    http://oi41.tinypic.com/jsjz3m.jpg

    4) Bon Appetit.
    Bon Appetit has won best college campus food by the Princeton Review.
    http://business.highbeam.com/409700/article-1G1-78547058/two-bon-appetit-accounts-lay-claim-best-college-campus
    https://www.google.com/finance?cid=10314624
    They also cater to MIT and from what I gather, no one there is outright calling Bon Appetit a travesty.
    http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/massachusetts-institute-technology/1260342-mit-food.html

    5) SAGES
    In 2010 there were a total of 16 first year seminars. If you really can’t find something you’re semi interested in out of 16 very different topics then I don’t know what to tell you.
    Lucas makes a good point: Breland writes that the point of SAGES is to teach students to write and communicate and then presents himself as an example of how SAGES failed (“the only thing I learned was that engineering and humanities students shouldn’t take the same class” – paraphrasing).
    http://www.case.edu/sages/TheCourseSequence.html?nw_view=1378843230 &

    6) Library Services (KSL).
    http://library.case.edu/ksl/
    To the left there is “Quick Links.” On quick links you can chat with ASKSL. You can click on personal librarians and email someone who works there and will more than happy to take care of your needs. There is even an “Ask a Librarian” section that gives you so many ways to seek help. These are dedicated people who run the library.

    You can make appointments with the personal librarians via email if you need to. They have a schedule; they go to meetings during the day. They do things outside of wait around for you to ask them questions. They run that library.

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What your tour guides don’t tell you about Case Western