The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday April 1st

Editorial: Weed-out classes shouldn't be a lesson in survival

<p>DTH Photo Illustration. With remote learning continuing and in-person classes posing a potential risk of exposure to COVID-19, many UNC students are electing to underload classes this semester.</p>
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. Is having weed-out classes unnecessary and unfair?

Just prior to the wellness break in March, students in CHEM 102 had to take a midterm before they could start their deserved break. What followed was, by most accounts, a living hell.

Numerous posts on Reddit criticized the exam, particularly with regard to how the midterm didn’t relate to the content that was being taught, and how unnecessarily difficult it was. 

Students were so angry and frustrated with the department that they started a petition calling for change in the chemistry department. It has garnered over 900 signatures. 

CHEM 102’s infamous reputation as one of the worst “weed-out classes” seems to be well-founded. 

In a list compiled by OneClass in 2017, CHEM 102 was ranked the hardest class at UNC. Other notable mentions from the list include the likes of MATH 232 and 233, ECON 101 and 410, COMP 401 (now defunct), etc.

While students are fully aware that classes at UNC will be more difficult than in high school, there comes a point when the level of difficulty in a class becomes unnecessary, which aptly describes weed-out courses. 

Weed-out classes are meant to discourage those who might not be cut out for the major or those who are only in it for the career (particularly if the career is a lucrative one, such as medicine or computer science) and don’t really care about the subject material. Some departments institute such courses to prevent potential overcrowding issues that might arise if the department doesn’t have sufficient resources. 

Regardless of whatever benefits that the department might get from instituting difficult courses, it is not a pleasant experience for the students actually taking them.

Weed-out classes cause needless stress. They are usually designed to be very time-consuming, whether by having multiple assignments due on a weekly basis or requiring a lot of reading outside of class. This immense time commitment is exacerbated for students who have a job or are involved in other extracurricular activities, as they have to juggle a large workload in their class alongside their other responsibilities.

While weed-out classes are meant to discourage people from pursuing certain majors, isn’t that a bad thing? Shouldn’t the school want students to pursue their dreams? 

While we understand that academic departments want students who are genuinely passionate about the subject, shouldn’t this process come more naturally? Instead of purposefully cranking the difficulty meter all the way up at the start, it would be more beneficial to teach the classes regularly. Over time, those who don’t like the material will change majors on their own accord. 

Furthermore, one could make the argument: so what if the student doesn’t like the subject? As long as they pass their classes and do so honorably, it shouldn’t be the department’s concern whether that student is genuinely passionate about the material or not.

It’s ironic that the chemistry and biology departments are trying to weed-out many pre-med students, because there’s a growing physician shortage in the U.S. Instead of trying to decrease the number of people seeking to be a doctor, shouldn’t the school be encouraging people to do so? There are already enough deterrents to becoming a physician as is, such as stress, high costs and time commitment.

To all the academic departments at UNC who are trying to weed students out: please reconsider your methods. Is it really worth crushing students’ dreams just so classes can be smaller in the immediate future?


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