Problems I’ve experienced in QC

April 30th, 2012

Danna Galed

Professor Alvarez

English 110

April 26, 2012


It is common to believe that upon entering a college all the status quos and social standings acquired in High School would melt away, as college mainly encompasses a person’s freedom regarding how they choose to steer their life career wise as well as the rest of their future. Even still, social inequality is a prevalent issue that exists today among various colleges including Queens College. Burton Clark and Pierre Bourdieu further explain the issues surrounding these students’ acceptance to college but lack of proper aids granted to assist them in achieving their goals.

At Queens College I have seen a clear disparity between the teachers and the foreign students and between the White-Native students and the foreign students. These clashes often create difficulties for the foreign students in Queens College and are setting them up for failure.  In Queens College foreign students do not receive enough help from teachers which then reflects the students desire to reach out to the foreign students. Changes within the faculty and administration need to be made and teachers need to be encouraged to reach out and put more effort into students who are struggling through a class. Classes could also be smaller which will ultimately give more attention to students who are having trouble. Once teachers show their effort towards foreign students this will have an effect on the students as well. Students will also feel more inclined to reach out towards the foreign students and the students who need more help. In addition, there should be more social events on campus where students could meet and create for themselves a network of students. Students could get to know each other and advise each other out when it comes to academics. All of these changes to the Queens College system will enhance their academic system and will provide all students, in addition to the foreign students, with the aid to succeed in college.

Social Equality in College

Today the excepted norm these days after high school is to attend college. Many students attend college with the hopes of graduating and achieving a college degree. Burton Clark, a sociologist discusses this issue in his article The “Cooling-Out” Function of Higher Education.  “Students who pursue ends for which a college education is required but who have little academic ability gain admission into colleges only to encounter standards of performance they cannot meet” (Clark 571). Students “pursue ends for which a college degree is required”, they go to college in order to achieve greater heights and have a better future. Aids include, teachers reaching out and providing a little extra help towards the students including the foreign students who struggle.

Queens College not providing enough aids for students to do their best is one of many problems among the college system. There is a clear clash between the many foreign students that attend Queens College and the native English speaking students. In the words of Pierre Bordieu, “The dominated perceive the dominant through the categories that the relation of domination has produced and which are thus identical to the interest of the dominant” (Bourdieu 121). White students who are “dominant”, the majority of the student body, see students from different races in a separate category and on a lower rank. The white students look at students of a different race as if they are superior to them. This perception is created and unfortunately so accepted that it just becomes the way of life and even somewhat normal. This perception exists among the general public and can also be applied to students in college as well.

The Social Science Journal conducted a study which supports Bourdieu’s explanation of the perception of the dominant and also explains the issue between white and foreign students, which is prominent in college. The Social Science Journal states, “Prior research indicates that young adults today may be more likely to accept structural explanations that highlight differences in opportunity or discrimination and less likely to accept individual explanations that focus on motivation or ability than older Americans…” (Steffens 506). The younger generation today acknowledges that foreigners are “different” and less privileged in terms of education and are discriminated against. White students look at the foreign students differently and have this structured concept ingrained in them which causes them to look down and create a separation between them and the foreigners.

Theory Application

Throughout my experience at Queens College for the past two semesters I’ve noticed that there are a lot of foreign students and students of different races on campus and in most of my classes. I feel as though they don’t get enough help and attention from the teachers and maybe they are not doing well enough because the school does not put enough effort into these students. According to sociologist Burton Clark in his article titled The “Cooling-Out” Function in Higher Education, in American higher education there is a wide gap between the culturally excepted dream to go to college and the actual provided means from the schools for this dream (Clark 569). “Students who pursue ends for which a college education is required but who have little academic ability gain admission into colleges only to encounter standards of performance they cannot meet” (Clark 571). In my opinion, Clark’s statement is very true and strongly applies to Queens College. In all my classes I have experienced foreign students in each class who were not able to fluently speak English. I’ve seen teachers not give as much attention to the foreign students as they would give to the other native English speaking students. It seems as though Queens College accepts these students in order to boast that they are a well-rounded college with a diverse student body however, when it comes down to the students academics Queens College does not seem to care at all. These students are accepted under the impression that the school will provide them with the aids in order to succeed and reach their potential however from my experience I have not seen this through. I believe that the foreign students have the ability to do well in school and could get high grades but they may not have the ability to clearly communicate what they want to say to other students or the teachers.

Foreign students helping each other out. Do they not have anyone to turn to?

In addition to the teachers not putting enough effort into the foreign students and there being a clash between the teachers and foreign students, I believe another clash exists between the native English, mostly white students and foreign students as well. According to Pierre Bourdieu, in his article The Economy of Symbolic Goods, he states, “The dominated perceive the dominant through the categories that the relation of domination has produced and which are thus identical to the interest of the dominant” (Bourdieu 121).  In this case the dominated would be the foreign students and the dominant would be the white students. In my opinion, the foreign students see the white students through a separation that is consciously made by the dominant group. Although the majority of the student body at Queens College may consist of foreign students the white, native English speaking students, see the foreign students who are not getting enough help from the teachers and they look down upon them and automatically creating a separation between the both of them. If the teachers are looking at the foreign students through a different eye and if they brush them off during class then this will have a strong effect on the students as well. If the teacher puts no effort into providing extra help for the students then the other students will see no reason to acknowledge or even lend a hand to the foreign students as well. A few weeks ago I experienced a scenario similar to what I just explained. At the end of one of my classes a foreign student went up to the professor and asked for help for the upcoming final paper. The professor’s response was not of which I expected to hear. The professor quickly dismissed the student by telling him to look over the books that were read in class because everything is clearly stated in the books.  I was shocked to hear this from my professor because the professor could clearly see the foreign student was struggling however he did not seem compelled in any manner to take time out and give the student the extra help he needed. Foreign students do not receive enough help around campus and with their classes and this is the prominent reason why these students are being set up to fail. 

Even though we live in a country with equal rights for all there still seems to be a sense of separation that exists between Native-White students and students of different race. In my opinion, with the majority of the student body consisting of many foreign students or students of a different race, the Native-White student population looks down upon them and clearly understands the fact that those students may not be as advanced in their studies as they are. According to the Social Science Journal, they ran a study according to this perspective and found, “Prior research indicates that young adults today may be more likely to accept structural explanations that highlight differences in opportunity or discrimination and less likely to accept  individual explanations that focus on motivation or ability than older Americans…” (Steffens 506). In this quote, structural explanations refer to the lack of educational opportunity and discrimination and individual explanations refer to in-born ability and motivation. It has become the norm and accepted that Native-White students see students of different races and automatically think they have lower academic standards than the White students. This is a common and big problem around campus because many times this assumption, where students of a different race are academically behind, is not true. This assumption has become so commonly accepted that even the foreign students accept this assumption and this leads them to not work as hard as they really could.

The Solution 

My Queens College experience up until a few weeks ago has been pretty neutral where I did not see much wrong with the school. However, after my experience with my professor who out right chose not to help a foreign student in my class my perspective of Queens College shifted. When accepting a wide range of foreign students then the school must be the one to provide aids in order to help them be on the same page as most students in the class. Teachers must be extra careful and sensitive when dealing with foreign students and should offer extra help if needed. Once students see the professors helping out they may feel more comfortable to do the same thing. In order to make it easier for the foreign students I would organize social events among the students where they could meet new people and mingle. This way they would be able to create a larger network of students for themselves be able to ask them for help and advice. Creating more social events will help solve all three issues of the relationship between student and teacher and between student and student and ultimately will help close the gap between native English speaking students and foreign students. All students will have better chances of actually graduating and reaching their goals and striving for a better future.

Given that I have seen first hand these issues at Queens College I would make some changes that would improve college life and academics for the students who are struggling. I would open up a tutoring center and recruit fellow to be tutors. This way tutors and students who come in for tutoring could feel comfortable around each other and could relate to each other. Tutors may have even taken the class that students come in for and therefore tutors can give other students tips and advice about the class. In addition, to help foreign students learn English I would also recruit fellow students to help other’s learn the language but I would add an incentive. In exchange for teaching other students I would offer credit to the students, therefore both students would be gaining. I know if there was a program like this at Queens College I would not hesitate to join. With these changes Queens College will improve as an academic institution and be a better place for students who struggle.

Works Cited

Bourdieu, Pierre. “The Economy of Symbolic Goods.” Practical Reason: On the
Theory of Action
. Trans. Randal Johnson. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998. Print.

Clark, Burton R. “The ‘Cooling-Out’ Function in Higher Education.” The American Journal of Sociology 65.6 (1960): 569-576. Print.

Eitle, Tamela McNulty. “Religious affiliation and beliefs about racial inequality: White college students’ attitudes about Black-White and Native American-White inequality.” The Social Science Journal 46. 3 (2009): 506-520. Print.

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