BETTEZ | The Quiet Classism in Engineering

As the add/drop period continues and students consider the classes they’ll dedicate their time and energy toward, an element to class selection weighs more heavily on some more than others: the hidden costs that are barriers to taking the classes. Classism is inextricable from the American collegiate system, for which there is little Cornell’s College of Engineering can do to dispel. But for the changes it is capable of, Cornell can do better to ensure that all students are capable of taking all classes within the College regardless of their background. Any student who earns a spot in the engineering school should be capable of taking any of its classes. The Ivy League university we attend surrounds us with such unusual wealth that it’s easy for the professors and administrators to forget that the perceived minor expenses of their classes aren’t just making an insignificant dent in the pocket of a Canada Goose or Supreme jacket.

BETTEZ | Let’s Reconsider Our ENGRIs

If you spend enough time on the engineering quad, you’ll eventually hear some variation of this: “I was going to do [insert some engineering major], but then I took the ENGRI for it and it was awful.” The Introduction to Engineering classes, or ENGRIs (pronounced by sounding out each letter), that all engineering freshmen are required to take to explore a major are good for one thing: elimination. They come from a well-meaning place from the engineering administrators, who are aware that the rigid scheduling locks us securely into our majors before we can get a good sense of what they’ll be like. They attempt to let us explore majors we’re considering more before we fully commit to the years-long process of knocking out our flowcharts of requirements one by one. But the fact that we’re only supposed to take one of these classes can lead to some unfortunate consequences. It means that those fairly certain about their major, and those who like or feel neutral enough about their ENGRI, often end up choosing it because they’ve never known anything about the other majors.

BETTEZ | So You Think You Want to Be a Doctor?

My small hometown’s emergency medical services was so understaffed that at one point they started training some high school kids to be certified EMTs. Throughout junior year, my classmates and I took night classes so that the next year we could carry pagers around school and respond to  ambulance calls during the day. We learned how to do CPR, identify a stroke, treat burn injuries — pretty much the worst cases of every scenario. But once we were on real calls, I started to realize how bloodthirsty we had become. Secretly and out loud to each other, we hoped for emergencies — and not just minor injuries that would get us out of class.

BETTEZ | Choosing Sides

“So, which side do you choose?” my high school biology teacher asked during a class on race.“Like, white or Asian? Most biracial people choose one,” he elaborated upon seeing my confusion. This was also the man who around the same time told the class that I’m an example of a “hybrid” —  in the context of cross-species hybrids — implying that my parents are different species, demonstrating a horribly awkward misunderstanding of mixed race people. As much as I hope everyone disagrees with him on the latter point, his attitude reflects a common one on mixed race people: that we should or will eventually choose one of our races to identify with — a side. We don’t fit into society’s separation of races, and there is intense pressure on us to conform to this worldview by pretending that massive parts of us don’t exist.

BETTEZ | Fill Out Your Course Evaluations

On the first day of a higher level engineering class I took last semester, the professor, who taught the introductory course, mentioned he read our course evaluations from the previous semester. But after addressing that we had universally complained that his labs were tedious, time consuming and not conducive at all to learning and that we wanted fewer of them, he laughed and said that was too bad, because this class had even more of the same. The TAs for his previous class were never in their office hours because they would walk in at the beginning, see that no one was there and walk out. Another one of my major classes was 75 minutes long and included nothing except the professor droning on at the front of the room while writing on a piece of paper projected on the wall. All of these classes functioned on the old framework of lectures, weekly problem sets and labs.