“Yeah, I’m a bioengineering major,” he says, his eyes shifting upwards as he does so. He knows what they’re thinking. The flash of admiration in their eyes and the almost-almost-imperceptible deference in conversation tell all. My friend Rollin is the smartest person I’ve met, and he deserves this treatment. But not for the simple reason that he is a majoring in biological engineering.
The University Assembly passed a resolution requesting all 12 colleges to review their academic departments to identify majors that might qualify for STEM certification — a certification that would grant international students two additional years of work authorization in the United States.
Cornell is not a university specifically reserved for the STEM disciplines. We were founded under a proud cosmopolitan banner of “Any Person, Any Study,” and we differ from MIT or CalTech in that we claim to offer the highest possible level of instruction in any field a person might choose. As a former PMA/English major I can say I was never belittled on campus, but I noticed an unquestionable lack of interest in funding arts departments and activities, compared to the hard sciences. This comes with the territory — the arts students tend to be far fewer in number than the STEM ones — but there is a very real danger that eventually, History, Philosophy, Comp Lit and Comm majors will have a far less rigorous education than the name of Cornell promises. The Schwartz Center has seen this with its extensive budget cuts passed seven years ago, and with its folding of three majors into one.
This Wednesday marks the official opening of Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island, the culmination of a series of events that began with the school’s founding at the Google office in Chelsea, New York. The vibrant, modern architecture sweeping through the campus is a nod to its goals of sustainability and innovation, and its curriculum is designed to explore intersections between many types of disciplines. We hope Cornell Tech becomes the best of its kind — an institution unparalleled in its ability to promote interdisciplinary learning and understanding between all corners of this contemporary world. Over the past several months, Cornell Tech has established partnerships with a diverse range of corporations and external organizations in hopes of allowing students to apply their skills in a variety of ways. This will allow Cornell Tech to realize its goal of bridging academia and industry.
Gender inequality in science, technology, engineering and math has been a long documented issue, but a new study coming out of the Cornell Center for the Study of Inequality offers encouraging evidence of avenues to bridge this divide. Dafna Gelbgiser, grad, and Kyle Albert, grad, found that green fields in higher education tend to bridge the gender divide in both STEM and non-STEM fields. Gelbgiser defined green fields as those that contribute to green jobs, which provide goods or have production processes that benefit the environment. Examples of such fields include environmental science and sustainability studies. Gelbgiser explained that both she and Albert were interested in studying green fields since they could track “what happens when a new field of study emerges in terms of gender inequality in those fields.”
According to Gelbgiser, green fields are unique because they do not have clear roots in other disciplines.
A union does not limit STEM stipends, but protects them. A union will not negatively impact students who receive the best stipends. Instead, it protects and guarantees increases to the highest stipends, and also increases the minimum. Currently graduate students have no say in minimum stipends and no guarantee that individual stipends will increase from year to year. Summer appointment letters decreased by up to $780 in engineering departments in 2016 compared with 2015. It is unclear how widespread this cut was within the school of engineering since the administration does not inform us of pay cuts, who they affect, or why they occurred.