Editorial: Engineering an Election: Expectations for the Dean Candidates
Most of the non-engineering population of the student body can recall an instance in which a “blue HENgineer” has abrasively mansplained their superiority, even if unprompted. Typically, there exists the perception of an privileged status allowed to students enrolled within the College of Engineering over that of students from any of the many other colleges. Engineering students embrace this perceived authority, along with a tendency to exclude diverse voices and a constant boasting of the vast array of non-specific employment prospects available to them upon graduation.
Upon further examination, the culture within this school should welcome an overhaul, ushered in with the upcoming election of a new dean. The Review asserts that the selection of a new dean of the College of Engineering should offer this college a fresh perspective on concepts such as increasing the interdisciplinary nature of the field and diversity, among the following.
Engineering students are placed on an unusually rigid trajectory upon entering freshman year. These students are welcomed to college with immediate enrollment in notorious, often pointless “weed-out” classes, and these classes do not let up until senior year, if at all. Such students, then, would benefit from a more interdisciplinary course load, which encourages experimentation with the liberal arts and humanities.
One does not have to look far to find an instance in which the moral compass of prominent, Silicon Valley engineers has steered the everyday practices of the public in a dangerous direction. Notably, this includes the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal. Engineers undoubtedly have a huge impact on the everyday lives of any given individual; however, they are not given the opportunity to verse themselves in the complex issues of ethics, privacy, politics and morality.
A more ethics-oriented or politically intertwined path would serve to benefit engineering students. One of the reasons that the engineering majors remain so strict likely relates to the high national ranking that the college possesses and wishes to maintain; however, a more interdisciplinary trajectory would provide future engineers with an increased capacity to confront the moral consequences of their decisions. In a more immediate sense, an increasingly interdisciplinary trajectory would allow these students a more well-rounded university experience.
Many of the professors within the College of Engineering remain stuck in a time in which women and minority voices in STEM were systematically silenced and altogether forbidden. Most minority students can recall an instance in which they have experienced racism or sexism during their college engineering experience. Unlike the candidates for the now-filled position of university president, at least one should represent minority voices. A woman or person of color (or woman of color), should be in the mix. Such a candidate would be most fit to update the oftentimes archaic beliefs that still permeate this college. Then, the schema that most have for the dean of a prominent College of Engineering would be actively combatted and represent the diverse future of the engineering field.
The election of a new dean to the College of Engineering provides the opportunity for this department to gain a fresh perspective. The elected dean should combat the culture of engineer-superiority and the notion that a student is an engineer simply because they are enrolled in the relevant classes. This would improve the campus attitude towards these students and their prospects going forward. Additionally, encouraging diversity within this field should remain a priority going forward. Ultimately, The Review is hopeful that each of the announced candidates has the potential to “build bridges,” among the engineering department and the rest of the university community.
Editorials are developed by The Review’s editorial board, led this week by Editorial Editor Alex Eichenstein. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.