Op-Ed, Opinion

OP-ED: Kilachand Honors College is between a rock and a hard place

Op-Eds do not reflect the editorial opinion of The Daily Free Press. They are solely the opinion of the author.

Since its origin, the Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Honors College has suffered a long-standing identity crisis. The promise of a tight-knit community and an interdisciplinary approach to education was a pivotal reason why I chose to come to Boston University, convinced the program would provide me — an undecided student — with a false sense of security in my academic potential.

Nearly two years into the program, its disjointedness has become increasingly apparent to me. Despite being in existence for six years, the college is still struggling to fulfill its claim of “education by cross-pollination.” Although we are immersed within different disciplines, we are constricted by rigid class structures that often prevent students from pursuing their actual course of study or partaking in student activities. While the requirement that all students live in the same building together freshman year does create a sense of community, it does not detract from the alienation of being separated from all other freshmen or from the frustration of being forced to pay for a more expensive dorm. In a true testament to Kilachand’s shortcomings, our numbers dwindle significantly each semester, as students drop the program in favor of taking classes more relevant to their major.

This spring semester offered an opportunity for change when the Honors College ushered in a new administration team, headed by English professor Carrie Preston. Though only in office for a few months, Preston has already implemented several sweeping changes and laid the groundwork for transformation. The establishment of a Leadership Advisory Board has given students somewhat of a voice in the program, or at least a forum to have their concerns conveyed by fellow classmates. The addition of weekly office hours and an Honors newsletter, coupled with the remodeling of the course curriculum indicate a willingness to listen and improve that contrasts the attitude of the previous administration. Although highly dedicated to the success of the college, the outgoing director was too attached to Kilachand to recognize its issues, and even though the administration encouraged its students to confront the complexities of global challenges, they themselves were unable to face the flaws of the program they had founded.

The Honors College still has many problems and it will take more than just the introduction of new leadership to solve them. And even if these new additions do transform the college, it will not benefit the students currently in it. Upperclassmen had to experience the college when it was stuck in its stage of self-discovery and are excluded from reaping the benefits of these changes. As a sophomore who is already halfway through the program, I feel caught amidst the evolution of a program that frequently falls flat.

So, the question remains: why am I still here? Every student still in the program has complained about its faults or contemplated quitting, yet they chose to stay. While some are only passively participating because they have already dedicated too much time or still have hope that its presence on their resumés will provide an edge in a competitive job market, I truly do value the awareness of dilemmas within different disciplines that the Honors College has instilled in me.

Even though my expectations have not been met and I think I could have been just as happy without Kilachand, the relationships built and knowledge accumulated have certainly shaped my BU experience. The program has immense potential, supplemented by a large budget that honors colleges at other schools would love to have, and I hope these are more than just surface-level changes, as swapping out one administration for a new one will not automatically fix deep-seated problems.

For those of us who still return each semester, despite Kilachand’s flaws and false promises, we are bonded by shared intellectual experiences and the presumption that, through us, the college will eventually find its footing. The Kilachand Honors College will never fully fulfill the expectations of every opinionated member, but it has taught us to question the infrastructure and ethic of society in the same way that we challenge the foundations of an underdeveloped program that does not satisfy its students.

Katie DiClemente can be reached at kdicleme@bu.edu.

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