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Univ. should focus less on business programs

By Andrew Elmers

Section: Opinions

April 19, 2015

Institutions always look to have some sort of identity—a brand, a slogan—something marketable. If someone wants a nice car, they’re going to look at a BMW or Mercedes even if they don’t know anything about cars, just because those brands have an established place as high-quality luxury automobiles. The same idea holds true for Brandeis. Ask any prospective student on any campus tour what Brandeis is, and most will tell you its the “social justice” university.

While the validity of that title is often up for debate, that is what defines the university. Yet recently, the university appears to have shifted its focus. A few different examples of policy are favorability being shown towards the International Business School (IBS), and business curriculum in general, among current students, incoming students and faculty.

With pre-registration opening for the Fall 2015 semester, a special registration period was held for IBS undergraduates a day before other students were allowed to register. Obviously undergraduates in other majors would not be all that affected by IBS students getting to pick their courses a day earlier, since there are most likely very few higher-level business classes that non-majors are interested in. This also might have been in response to general problems with previous IBS registration sessions, though it still shows favoritism.

Also, according to recent faculty senate meetings, a new dean position has been approved for IBS, as well as a process of reworking their faculty structure to appear more attractive to potential faculty hires. The university is again showing a willingness to help IBS over other programs, trying to make them more competitive in attracting students and faculty, presumably in an attempt to grow and develop the graduate school to become a more well-known and well-respected institution.

The future of Brandeis is being affected by this as well. The incoming class of 2019 has been offered the opportunity to pursue a joint BA/MA in International Economics and Finance with IBS upon entering. This offer comes with a stipulation that would allow incoming students who choose to follow this path a savings in the total tuition cost for the program, once again trying to attract students to IBS in order to expand the graduate school.

While it is smart to actively work on building up IBS and making the overall quality of an education from there better, the university has to be aware of how this then affects the rest of the school’s identity. Brandeis has relied on a lot of rhetoric over the years of being not just the social justice university, but also the home to a great amount of student activists. Some of the most quintessential Brandeisian moments have involved students getting their voices heard and enacting change on campus, and that is what the school should be focusing on attracting more of, or at least maintaining the status quo. Business students should not be as heavily recruited, because, while still a vital portion of the community, they typically don’t adhere to the same notions of social justice and activism that, we are led to believe, is what truly defines this school.

Many other schools have good business schools and attract those students that want to get into the business or finance world. Brandeis isn’t one of them, and shouldn’t be trying to become one. We should let these other universities hold this corner of the market while we can continue to attract students interested in the liberal arts. Students who wish to work for not-for-profits and NGOs after graduating or those who will head off to professional schools after graduating to become doctors or lawyers are the ones that have defined Brandeis for the past 70 years, and should continue to do so for the next 70.

While it may not look good for college statistics when graduates’ starting salaries are lower than those of other schools that produce the next venture capitalist or stock broker, the school should be proud to be the home to activists and policy makers who have affected the world for the better instead of people just out looking to make some money.

  • Joe Falchetto

    By “they typically don’t adhere to the same notions of social justice and activism” do you mean “they ruin my little left-wing echo chamber”?

  • Pete Walton

    This article is not well researched, and seems to be founded on the basis of a personal attitude towards the world of business more than anything going on at our University.

    To begin, IBS is the business school; IBS undergraduates don’t exist. Undergraduate business majors have an early enrollment period because as this piece touches on, but fails to actually explain; yes, it was in response to previous problems with the overbooking of undergraduate business courses, due to their wild popularity amongst the student body outside the business program. The fact that a rationing system needs to exist is evidence in my mind of a shortage of resources directed towards IBS and the undergraduate programs in business and economics. I think the authors misunderstanding of the delineation between the undergrad and graduate programs at IBS underlie many of the problems with this article.

    The author goes on to make the assertion that that business students ‘typically don’t adhere to the same notions of social justice and activism that…truly defines [sic] this school’ without giving a shred of evidence for this claim. Brandeis’ undergraduate business curriculum is in fact unique, in that there are 2 required ‘business and society electives’ which must be taken outside of the business department in order to understand more fully the ways in which businesses interface with the rest of the world. As a business major who prides myself on a liberal-leaning, social justice inspired outlook on the world (in no small part due to my time at Brandeis) I think this claim reflects a gross generalization and mischaracterization of the wide range of students who choose to study one of the most popular disciplines on campus.

    Personally, I was attracted to Brandeis because I was interested in economics and business, but wanted to attend a liberal-arts university. I saw in Brandeis, a rare combination of these attributes, and have been utterly pleased with my decision to attend, becoming a double major in economics and business, a double minor in IGS and politics, a BA/MA student at IBS, and one of the UDR’s for the economics department. Despite being able to study a preprofessional discipline I am profoundly interested in, I consider myself an activist, and have strongly considered pursuing a career in policymaking (one of IBS’ strong suits).
    Although I may not be what ‘typically defines a Brandeisian’ to the editor of this newspaper, I vehemently disagree with this sentiment and consider myself proof of the fallacy of this argument

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