Debate: Is Michigan Tech neglecting its Humanities Department?

Round 1

Side 1: While it may seem odd that a “tech” school has humanities majors, it is in fact not odd. The Humanities aren’t just a group of subjects that don’t add anything to society, and just like technology is constantly changing, so is language and social studies and anthropology and so on. With this in mind, MTU does not give the Humanities Department the resources that it needs to thrive in a school or society where many might think that it doesn’t even belong. Many of the classes are orchestrated as electives for engineers which means that English majors or Communications majors aren’t learning the kinds of in-depth things that their engineering peers are in their specialized classes. In fact, almost all of the classes that are needed for the English majors are also core requirements for everyone else. So not only are there not enough classes with enough information, but every other person in the school has the opportunity to take those classes, making it difficult for students in the Humanities Department to take their own classes—which is not an issue that is seen in engineering classes which often have multiple sections to choose from. In addition, the career fair is entirely catered to engineering students with perhaps four or five businesses coming in search of humanities students, meaning that the school is reinforcing the lack of interest in humanities but not seeking out, inviting or actively recruiting businesses that value humanities students.

Side 2: Every institution has a goal to provide a broad-based general education to prepare the students to become global citizens. However, in the 21st-century, institutions have been more focused to rebalancing funding towards subjects that are more obviously practical, that is, subjects which have a higher value in the job market. In 2014, the University of Wisconsin-Steven Point had to shut down 13 humanities and liberal arts majors because of decline in enrollment and tuition revenue to maintain a functional department. This is a similar story for many tech schools across the country. The only practical way to ensure the survival of such departments is to infuse these subjects as required electives for other majors which have higher numbers of enrollment. The faculty from humanities subjects are more inclined to appeal to the majority of the students who are mostly engineering majors as they want most of the class to pass the course. This is certainly a disadvantage for humanities students, but from an administration’s point of view, it is the only practical move. Also, career fairs in any university are hugely dependent on the location and job market around. At Michigan Tech, the job market is heavily influenced by industries looking for engineers, while this might not be the case if we look in the east coast.

Round 2

Side 1: In prioritizing STEM students over humanities students, especially in the curriculum and methods taught in these classes, Tech is actively neglecting the Humanities Department. Michigan Tech consists of the College of Engineering, College of Sciences and Arts, School of Technology and school of Business and Economics. Humanities classes fall under the College of Sciences and Arts and so the Humanities Department should be treated the same as the Physics or Chemistry department. Making the Humanities available to and designed for engineering students tells the humanities students that they aren’t worth investing in. Colleges prepare students for careers, but language surrounds us. If students expect to glide by their humanities classes because it isn’t what they came to Tech for, how are they supposed to properly prepare humanities majors for their futures? The Humanities are not a dying art, they are adapting to the world of technology and are becoming even more prevalent in the form of advertising, editing programs and entertainment. Making the classes too easy for humanities majors but decent for engineers means that the needs of humanities students are ignored completely. It is both possible and desirable to spark passion for language, arts and culture in students outside of the Humanities Department because these classes are about enrichment. Without these classes, Tech would be comprised of many people who think almost exactly same, and colleges, while they may be a profitable business, would be factories if they only churned out graduates suffering from group-think. It’s time that Tech recognized and respected the Humanities for the diversity and value that they bring to this campus.

Side 2: While it is a known fact that the present economy is not an ideal world for humanities and liberal arts majors,it may seem that the University is neglecting the growth of these departments. But the fact is, Tech is only trying to function as any profitable business institution would. The higher education funding is not based on the number of butts in the seats but on how many of those butts can get jobs. It is evident that the University does not want to spend taxpayers’ and sponsors’ money to subsidize subjects that do not seem to lead directly to students securing a job. In fact, by offering electives to other majors, not only is the University fueling the departments to survive but is also able to sustain the interest of the faculty to continue with their jobs at the University. Students majoring in the Humanities should make an educated choice before choosing a university program based on their goals. Even if they end up in a tech school where their major is a minority, they should use this opportunity to find their niche and shine in other extracurricular activities which might be difficult in other schools with more competitive Humanities Departments.

Side 1 argued by Aemili Lipzinski

Side 2 argued by Animesh Sarkar