By Jess Decina
May 1, 2008 is going to be an incredible, spectacular day for two reasons. Firstly, it’s the day that I turn 22. (All gifts can be dropped off at my residence hall room.) But it’s also the day I present my Baccalaureate Honors Program (BHP) thesis, which means I will have successfully completed the BHP.
For those of you who may not know, BHP is Rider’s honors program. It’s awarded to incoming freshmen based on their academic records. Students in the BHP take advanced courses that can count for their liberal arts requirements. These classes are interdisciplinary seminars taught by two professors instead of one. The BHP students who enrolled at Rider before this year need to take five courses and complete a capstone to graduate; incoming freshmen must complete seven courses and a capstone.
There are some sweet benefits to being a Baccalaureate scholar, and I’m not just talking about the courses. BHP students have the option of living in the recently renovated Ziegler Hall their first year with other BHP students. They also get priority in course registration and opportunities to attend campus events, such as Fine Arts plays, for free. This year, there’s been an added benefit: This year’s freshmen will receive a free trip to London.
I’m all for it, but I have one question: Where’s my trip to London?
I think the BHP is a rewarding, fiercely challenging program of which I am quite proud to be a part. It’s because of the BHP that I’ve met faculty who have pushed and prodded me to achieve things that I didn’t think I was capable of achieving. As a freshman, I didn’t think I’d graduate with honors, but now, I’m in the process of developing my senior thesis.
Let’s go over some statistics. The BHP recruits a small percentage of the freshman class each year; I don’t have exact figures for the class of 2011, but I know that for the senior class, approximately 80 students entered the program in their first year. About 20 seniors will complete the program. The other 60 have either already dropped the program early in their college career, stayed in the program but will not complete a thesis, or simply remain in the program for some of its benefits — early registration, for example. It seems neither fair nor logical, then, to implement this study tour to students who may not even complete the program.
I understand that this concept was not the idea of the BHP administrators, and I also recognize that these faculty members are doing whatever they can to ensure that the seniors graduating with honors will be recognized for their achievements. And I’m sure that the BHP seniors will be rewarded, even if it’s in the form of a certificate that will hang proudly on a wall somewhere paired with the sheer satisfaction that comes with writing a 25-page thesis paper.
But I worry. Free trips and dissatisfaction aside, I worry for the future of this program. Part of the reason I chose Rider was because I had been admitted into the BHP — a select program that only a fraction of students got into. However, enticing incoming freshmen with a free trip abroad doesn’t sound very “selective” to me.