Need tutoring? Don’t see a PAL

I was scrambling madly to finish my English paper while pitying myself for being stuck in the dorm’s computer lab. My own computer was out of commission. The hard drive had conveniently crashed, spewing two years of files across data-storage limbo, never to be retrieved again.

“Back-ups? We don’t need no stinkin‘ back-ups.”

Essentially, I was mentally kicking myself in the butt. I’d become too lazy with and reliant upon a modern convenience and I’d gotten burned. But, I’m wandering from the point of this week’s tale, which began when I overheard the frustrated exclamation:

“I can’t believe it. I’m being discriminated against!”

My ears perked up. My fingers froze. By the voice, I knew it was a white female. Immediately suspicion arose within me. I inquired as to her transgressor. Sure enough it was them—those evil fiends whom I have heard so many rumors about as of late.

The culprit was NIU’s Peer Assistant Learning (PAL) program. PAL provides free tutoring for students, but there are a few strings attached to their services. In order to be a pal of PAL—and to be able to receive tutoring—you have to be either a minority, disabled, or on financial aid. Our damsel in distress in the computer lab obviously was none of these.

The next day I took a trip to PAL’s office to check the place out. To my dismay I found all I had heard to be true. Not only can’t you get free tutoring from PAL if you’re not a minority, disabled or on financial aid, you can’t get any tutoring at all.

Sounded like something of a raw deal to me.

I asked the girl at the desk why this was the case. In so many words, she told me that the program was funded by organizations that required their money be spent on those types of people. She added, for the record, “We would love to tutor everyone if we could.”

Later that day I made a few calls to various officials and departments around campus to find out where a student in need could get tutoring. Nobody really knew. There was this department here which had a learning lab, or maybe a list of freelance tutors available from that one, but it became painfully obvious that there is no centralized tutoring service

at this campus if you don’t qualify for PAL.

Whoops, almost forgot, athletes get free tutoring too. I have no idea whatsoever how anyone would ever get the notion that athletics is an over-funded department.

What everything seems to boil down to is if you’re not a minority, on financial aid, disabled or an athlete, not only might you have a heck of a time finding a place where you can get a tutor, you’re going to have to pay through the nose for the service.

Something struck me as odd while I pondered over this list of “worthy” students. The people who are getting all the help and receiving it for free are also the ones most likely to have gotten to this school on some sort of financial assistance or scholarship anyway. Don’t those of us who are stuck footing the bill for our education deserve some sort of assistance too?

I don’t bear any grudge against PAL or the students they do help because I realize the money they’re using is money mandated by the state and other organizations to target certain groups. As for the athletics—then again, maybe I shouldn’t voice my opinion on that one for fear of a frenzied herd of football players armed with baseball bats.

Although this is a column, and columns tend to express an individual’s viewpoint—a fact which a few authors of letters-to-the-editor don’t seem to comprehend—I am uncertain where I stand on this issue. I do believe it is somewhat unfair for students who are already paying their way through NIU to be gypped on services which financially assisted students are eligible to receive. However, being one of those students who fall into PAL’s tutoring mandate, I know there are specific cases where students do need a hand, while athletics should never appear among those.

Nonetheless, it seems to me that without easy or affordable access to academic assistance, NIU’s mainstream students are getting a raw deal.