Grade inflation and the availability of easy student loans have allowed American students to pursue indulgent extracurricular activities.
Jackson Toby, professor of sociology emeritus at Rutgers University wand Adjunct Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has a detailed analysis on the campus antics, and how economic realities are forcing students to become serious about scholarship.
Unlike students who work for pay during the academic year, where they must submit to employer supervision, students who do not take paid jobs have a great deal of freedom. Although they are supposed to study, they are not compelled to study. Moreover, if they live in campus dormitories or in off-campus housing rather than commuting from home, they do not have parents supervising their comings and goings. American college students were never subjected to the rigorous discipline administered to recruits at the Marine boot camp at Parris Island.
Yet before the campus rebellions of the 1960s, most colleges supervised not only classroom behavior, such as attendance, but also student life, including behavior in the dormitories. Administrators and deans, if not professors, believed that they were acting in place of parents.
However, student life changed in the 1960s and 1970s. The doctrine of in loco parentis was discarded in deference to student rights. Nowadays, those students who live at college are free of most external constraints. No one will interfere if a student invites a member of the opposite sex–or the same sex–to sleep with him in his dormitory room.
If a female student wishes to party on a Thursday evening, get drunk, and sleep through her Friday classes, nothing except her own conscience prevents her from doing so. This freedom enables many students to pursue “fun” relentlessly during the academic year.
Grade inflation usually saves fun-seekers–as well as other academic underperformers–from being forced to leave college. In order to fail, a student has to work hard at defying academic norms. Not attending classes is usually not enough, because many professors stopped taking attendance and those who do rarely use attendance as a basis for grading.
In addition to online services that offer for a fee custom-written papers that students can buy and hand in to their professors, most colleges have local-note taking services whereby students can buy notes taken by academically excellent students hired by the services to attend courses and make detailed notes. Thus, students can obtain the material from the lectures without attending them. Not taking any tests, including the final exam in the course, and not handing in required papers, may do it.
In the article, Toby takes a detailed look at several areas of “fun”:
- The Language of Fun
- Creature Comforts that Promote the Fun Lifestyle
- Having Fun Abroad
- Extracurricular Fun
Toby comes to the following conclusion:
Although no college explicitly offer a major in fun, students may informally major in fun at college by taking an untaxing class schedule or by changing majors in order to prolong a leisurely stay at college.
….But a college student today probably could not duplicate such a life trajectory because the cost of college has increased so much that only a very wealthy student could spend so long doing so little and because contemporary students have become aware that mere graduation does not guarantee a job. They have to know something.