Editorial: Engineering an Election: Expectations for the Dean Candidates

Taylor Nguyen/THE REVIEW
The election of a new dean to the College of Engineering provides the opportunity for the department to gain a fresh perspective.

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 aeichen@udel.edu.

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    HENgineer Alumna 2 years

    I would like to briefly point out that the current Dean of Engineering is an African man, Babatunde Oggunnaike. The current deputy dean is a woman. Your suggestion about the voice of minorities implies that the current dean was not able to represent those students. More, I’m sure, could be done but your critique diminishes the facts and suggests you weren’t aware who the current dean is and what he has done. If you want to make a valid critique of an entire college (even though the individual departments are opperated independently), I suggest doing some fact checking first.

    Personally, I’m upset that The Review didn’t take more care and present a thoughtful, data-based critique.

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    anonymous 2 years

    While I understand this is an opinion piece, I feel that there was a lack of information as background for these opinions/judgements.

    As a female engineering student at UD, I agree that the culture could stand to be refreshed and “updated.” That being said, this is not an issue exclusive to the University of Delaware. A few of the engineering majors even have an above average representation of women (see biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, and mechanical engineering). There is definitely a lack of representation of minority students, but the same can be said for UD as a whole.

    As for the strict engineering curriculum, again, this is not unique to UD. Engineering programs are known for their inflexibility. If a student pursues a minor or double major outside of the College of Engineering, it usually takes a lot of extra time and work and therefore is not a popular path for students to take. We have additional breadth requirements in addition to University breadth requirements to encourage a well-rounded educational experience. However, many students are excused from a few of these requirements by substituting AP credits. If we want to graduate with a high GPA and be a viable/competitive candidate for industry jobs, it is generally in our best interest to take the engineering curriculum as we are given it to avoid any added stress from other classes. It usually takes an exceptional student to do extremely well in engineering courses and still have time to pursue another major/minor. Additionally, ethical and moral information is generally included throughout our courses beginning with our freshman course, Intro to Engineering.

    The current Dean of the College of Engineering has been tremendous and will be missed in that role. He is an incredible engineer and educator and always knows how to motivate and inspire UD’s engineering students. I believe the next Dean can encourage the cultural shift, but this is something that will change over time. Ultimately, a more diverse class of engineers is encouraged by our efforts to introduce engineering to younger kids and show them the variety of things an engineer could do in the hopes that this education might introduce a person to their career interest/passion. The shift to a more diverse class of engineers will then be an issue for the Office of Admissions. We can’t promote a more diverse student population if there is not a diverse applicant pool. Additionally, there is currently a diversity initiative within the College of Engineering (http://www.engr.udel.edu/initiatives/diversity-inclusion/).

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