Christian Shaheen’s article on the liberal arts at Tech is, at best, disingenuous. At worst, it abuses the words of a second-year INTA student to force a point that only serves to exacerbate the very problem the article is supposedly fighting against. This is truly a shame, because the article does bring up excellent points concerning the value of the impact the sciences and the liberal arts have on one another, with each one providing unique perspectives on how to approach the other. This is not to make any kind of statement concerning the presence of liberal arts degree programs at Tech, but rather is useful in looking at what genuinely interesting points the article obscures with its disingenuous presentation and ulterior motive.
To begin: the title. The initial presentation of this article is, for readers of the physical paper, “Ivan Allen students are feeling left out.” This seems like the sort of title one would accompany with a frowning emoticon (e.g. :c). If the article’s purpose is to give respect to Ivan Allen majors, this title does not help. It seems whiny, and if anything, has the potential to lower the status of Ivan Allen majors in the eyes of the campus community. I know I do not speak for everyone, of course, but my initial impression of an article with that sort of title does not encourage me to take a deeper look. If I were an Ivan Allen major, I would be upset that this title was the impression of my college given to the Tech community.
To the credit of Shaheen, the article does make excellent points considering the value of liberal arts at a STEM school such as Tech. It explains how the presence of engineers and scientists within liberal arts classes adds an analytical depth to the class that comes from the clash of perspectives with the liberal arts students. It also emphasizes how a liberal arts perspective is valuable when training engineers and scientists to have an edge over other, similar schools. Lowther in particular makes a number of points concerning her appreciation of these perspectives as a second-year INTA major. All of this information has — had, rather — the potential to change someone’s opinion of the Ivan Allen College, but it is so wholly encapsulated by the attempt to portray liberal arts majors in a certain light that it loses its value.
To give an example of this, consider some of the quotes offered by Lowther and how they are presented in the article. The piece opens with Lowther saying how she gets “the look” when she tells people she is an International Affairs major, only to immediately follow that quote with one from a completely different person — Haley Franklin, a first-year INTA student — that begins with the words “more specifically, the look I get … ,” framing the words of two people who may not even know one another as a coherent thought. Now, Lowther may in fact share the perspective of Franklin, but that is impossible for us to perceive, since the article gives us absolutely no context to define how Lowther describes “the look.” The article seems to be offering evidence to refute a point, in other words, that it seems to be constructing for itself. The problem might in fact exist, but the article itself is unhelpful in proving this, and damages its credibility by forcing its existence.
This article helps nobody. If anything, it hurts the status of the Ivan Allen College by presenting their students as gentle, inoffensive complainers — again, “feeling left out” — instead of highlighting the thoughtful points made by Lowther about the contribution of the liberal arts to STEM and vice versa. Many members of the Tech community have already had their impression of the liberal arts lowered by the headline alone, so hopefully this letter allows some of those people to look past the egregious failings of the piece and genuinely consider what role the Ivan Allen College plays at Tech.