Problems in H&SS cannot be overlooked

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

I’ll admit, I was both bemused and bothered by the letter to the editor regarding the article “Dietrich Pride Day Indicates Deeper H&SS Problems.” Let me preface this by saying that I am a junior in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and I love the school with all my heart. I really, truly do. Many of my friends, if not most of them, are fellow H&SS students. I have found a primary major in the college that has trained me and prepared me for a lifelong career in my areas of focus.

The problem isn’t with the academics in H&SS, nor with the high qualifications of the faculty here. The professors and coursework are excellent. The problem is that in terms of higher organization, the college becomes murky very quickly, despite the administration’s continual denial of any such problem. That’s the most unsettling issue we face as H&SS students, and one which was reflected not only in Joseph Devine’s letter to the editor but also in Tim Haggerty’s online comment left in response to the editorial.

It’s easy to draw the blinds and ignore these problems, of course, but those challenges remain. I watch my friends consistently worry about obtaining jobs and internships because the college lacks a solid technical core, despite Carnegie Mellon’s strong computer science and engineering programs. I see that even in a college which apparently is promoting (as Devine’s letter claims) “engaged and responsible citizenship,” students are entirely unmotivated to represent the college in Carnegie Mellon’s Student Senate — or even compete for leadership roles within the college itself. It’s a well-known joke that it’s possible to win an H&SS Student Senate seat with only a couple write-in votes — the post-vote proof is online for all to see. One Senate seat is entirely empty, and of the eight senators elected during 2011’s elections term, only five remain.

I have experienced firsthand that actively trying to locate current, consistent information regarding major and course requirements is a challenge — because of lack of unification, each major has radically different base requirements, many of which shift annually. And while the diversity might keep H&SS interesting, as acreative writing major, I have next to nothing in common with my friends from cognitive science or information systems.

Haggerty’s comment states that “The interpretations of human endeavor that concern the scholars who reside in Baker Hall are necessarily multifaceted, complex tasks that belie any easy attempt to be branded. A unified H&SS — whatever that may mean — might be easier to discuss at college fairs or sum up in 140 characters, but it would be anathema to independent thought and intellectual inquiry.” But those qualities — independence, intellectualism, concern for human endeavor — are seen throughout the whole of Carnegie Mellon, and indeed every other higher academic institution in the United States.

The problem is that H&SS lacks cohesion beyond those generic qualities. According to the administration, some free food, a raffle, and a nice T-shirt should ameliorate all of this. Shockingly, it doesn’t. Also according to the administration, we should outright accept the chaos of having an education we cannot “sum up in 140 characters,” as Mr. Haggerty describes, and be happy. Unfortunately, I’m sure I speak for many of my peers when I say we’d also like to be employed, and elevator pitches are already hard enough to come by for us.

To the administration: Give us a relevant academic base we can use to relate to all of our peers, not just those in our majors. Make it known that you want to listen to our voices — the fact that there is an enormous silent majority should be telling. Give us a forum to express our voices to you directly, and you’ll see members of the college stepping up to fill seats they never realized existed. Put majors which are better academically served under other colleges — for example, information systems and economics — wholly within those colleges. I promise we can still keep the multifaceted-ness our college emphasizes.

We will not lose diversity by re-clarifying H&SS’s vision and mission statement. We will only grow stronger. I want to be proud to be an H&SS student. Offer me the opportunity to feel connected to a whole, and I will seize it. I love this college, and I love Carnegie Mellon. That’s never been in question, and I know that many agree. H&SS, for most of us, has been more than just “a good choice.” That’s why we’re still here. Now it’s up to you to keep your end of the bargain. Do us proud.