Freshman ’15: Some things are tough to B-lieve

Opinion by Bianca Chavez
Nov. 14, 2011, 12:27 a.m.

Freshman ’15: Some things are tough to B-lieveStanford students don’t agree on many things. With such a diverse student body, it’s no surprise that the campus rarely reaches a general consensus on any issue — whether the topic of debate is the Occupy movement, the return of ROTC or the quality of dining hall food. We just love to argue.

There are only three things we can agree on: 1) Cal sucks, 2) Oregon may have beaten us at football, but we totally beat them at life (How many Oregon students go on to become Internet billionaires, Olympic athletes, Supreme Court justices and leaders of countries?) and 3) IHUM sucks, too.

Why do students hate IHUM so much? It’s not a particularly rigorous class like, say, CS106A. (I couldn’t even get through the syllabus for that course without saying, “Huh?”) It’s not an overly time-consuming class — besides two short-ish papers and weekly readings, there really isn’t any outside work. Sure, some of the material covered may be drier than the Sahara Desert, but I’m willing to bet there are plenty of other courses that focus on even less interesting topics.

So why, then, is IHUM the most loathed class on campus? Because students here hate to fail. And by fail, I mean get B’s.

“Just wait ‘til you freshmen get your first papers back,” one of my upperclassman friends told me two weeks ago. “It’s gonna be like a slap in the face.” And he was right. Plenty of my friends were visibly upset when our papers were returned last week. One of my friends moped around for the rest of the day looking like someone had kicked his puppy. Another girl walked out of lecture looking like she was about to burst into tears.

But here’s the crazy part: it’s not like these kids had flunked the assignment. They — like most other kids in IHUM — had gotten B’s. As in, aBove average. As in, a still fairly decent grade. And they were acting like Thanksgiving break had been cancelled.

To be honest, I really didn’t understand why they were so distraught. I mean, getting a B on the first major assignment of your college career isn’t so abysmal — especially when your school is one of the most prestigious and rigorous institutions in the world. Then I realized that many of my classmates had never gotten a B before.
As new students at Stanford, we are all accustomed to succeeding at school. We’re used to getting A’s. We’re used to being The Best at whatever we do, whether it be academics, athletics or art.

One of the hardest parts of freshman year has been accepting that we can’t all be The Best anymore. Whether you’re a dancer, chess player or a math prodigy, there is probably still a person on this campus who could beat you at your own game.

I remember realizing this during Opening Convocation, when the speaker (some distinguished member of the University wearing a funny-looking hat) told a class of 1,700 high school valedictorians that we would not all be graduating from Stanford with honors. Hell, 850 of us would be graduating in the bottom half of the class. That’s a hard pill to swallow, particularly after 18 years of getting gold stars on all your spelling tests and 2400s on the SAT.

Want to vent about your IHUM paper or any other aspect of freshman year? Email Bianca at blchavez “at” stanford “dot” edu. She’ll listen.

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