From the moderator, Emily Grzybowski ‘11: The Outlet is a forum for thoughtful and engaging student discussion. Please join us in our weekly discussions to promote and encourage intelligent, considerate discussion as an outlet for your individual thoughts as well as for the multiplicity of ideas in the University community.
I think the University could benefit from offering a more well rounded/liberal arts education. Although UR’s prestige is due to the research and advancements happening in its science departments, the University has the potential to grow in many other areas as well. There is an interest and demand in the Psychology Department, Art and Art History Department, Film Media Studies, Dance and Theater Programs, etc. It is excellent that the University has received gifts to expand its already strong programs in the sciences, but the humanities and social sciences should not be allowed to shrink away. A healthy education, much like a healthy diet, is a balanced one.
I don’t believe that growth in one area necessitates neglect in another. The $30 million gift, if intended for the sciences, should be spent on the sciences. I don’t have any problems with that. If the school were taking money out of department budgets for humanities and social sciences and giving that money to the Biology Department, then we could talk about neglect. Side note: innovation is extremely expensive.
No. The field of science (in the broadest sense possible) is continuously in development. Technology is ever changing and enhancing. For UR to maintain its role as a leading contender in the sciences, it needs to continue developing its science departments to match the field. Donations like Hajim’s allow the University to spend money developing the sciences and making sure that they have the most up to date curriculum as possible while still being able to support other areas of study. If anything, donations to the sciences allow the University to save money they would spend on the sciences and use it towards the social sciences and humanities.
If we look at the numbers, then I suppose any short period of time would show one-sided growth in favor of the sciences. Hajim’s contribution was specifically geared toward the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. As an engineering student I have a biased perspective, but the necessary resources for the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences are very different. How do we define the academic orientation of an institution? Is it the size of each department’s budget? The number of faculty in them? Or perhaps it is something more encompassing. For example, how do you compare the results of the English Department to that of the Mechanical engineering department? It seems like a silly comparison to me, for while they are both important, they are also fundamentally different. It is this fundamental difference that might create one-sided growth, whether real or perceived. When conducting research in the sciences, the hope is to confirm prior results or establish new ones. This cycle leads to the development of new materials, technologies, products and processes, all of which will usually have applications and therefore financial implications in industry. I know little of the research work of the humanities departments, but I do believe this direct relationship is either absent or much less significant. Perhaps this is why the latest big donation was between Hajim and the SEAS instead of a humanities or social sciences alumnus.
I think that it is also important to bring up that institutions within the humanities departments at the UR are severely under funded in stark contrast to the natural science departments. Some notable examples are the Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony institutes, both of which are staffed by outstanding and brilliant researches who receive next to no funding. Of course, investing in the sciences yields much more tangible and lucrative results, but I think that the University will have to, at one point or another if this type of development continues, renounce its image as a liberal arts college within a major research university. There’s nothing shameful in that, but it would be a shame for students still passionate about the excellent humanities departments at the University to see talented and visionary professors leave for more appreciated and better-funded positions at other schools. To the best of my knowledge, the University has lost at least three professors in as many years from various humanities departments due to such funding and advancement issues.
to think critically about brains and current events. He also enjoys the irony of thinking about thinking:
Even if this supposed “neglect” is really happening, I am OK with it. UR has only recently been attributed the adjective “prestigious” in the academic world. The way it got it is through over funding in the natural science departments, specifically optics, and building its name around subsequent success. We are not the very best just yet, but dousing our natural science departments in funding might just get us there. I am happy to be at UR because it’s the best place for my interests; that is not to say I wouldn’t mind having an alma mater at the very top. That means finding new professors gets easier, publication is easier, getting a job is easier and guest lecturers get even more interesting. More specifically, it becomes much easier and much more affordable to build great humanities and social studies departments after we have reaped the benefits of having a top natural science departments. The only legitimate criticism I have ever heard about our school concerned its reputation, but the more money we pump into the natural sciences, the sooner that will change, so be patient.
The $30 million gift from Hajim to the School of Applied Sciences and Engineering is not a sign that the humanities are neglected at UR. Rochester is known for its science-related research and the medical center, which are its self-proclaimed selling points. The bottom line is that most people come here for the sciences, at least at first. The other humanities and social science departments are not lacking simply because the University’s focus is on the sciences. There is groundbreaking research and many findings credited to the other departments that shine in their own right. For instance, our Political Science Department has lately been ranked 4th in the nation. According to Political Science Department Chair Gerald Gamm, the department’s compact size is actually beneficial, enabling closer collaboration. The English Department is also growing with the recent hire of poet Jennifer Grotz. The Psychology Department receives a fair amount of attention as well, as research by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan push into new areas to strengthen their Self-Determination Theory. All in all, the non-science departments at UR are smaller but are also of comparable caliber to the science departments and receive due attention.
UR is becoming more and more well known in the sciences, as evident by the newest expansions, though there are many renowned departments in the humanities and social sciences. We have good psychology and political science departments, and the Psychology Departments even moved to Meliora Hall just a few decades ago. Still, we are certainly lacking in some respects. We don’t even have a real Sociology department, unlike most top universities, and there are multiple majors or concentrations within a number of the science and math-related departments, like Biology, Earth and Environmental Science, Economics and Engineering. There is a disparity in general between the prestige of our science and math programs and the prestige of our humanities and social science programs. This will only be rectified by money or specialized recruiting, but neither is likely to happen in any significant way anytime soon. The money is in science, math and tech these days and, to point out the obvious, those donating money are those making it. For example, Hajim, class of ’58, made his money as a Wall Street executive, but got his degree in Chemical Engineering. He gave $30 million for engineering programs. Millionaires rarely have degrees in English.