Last week marked the spring class registration period for a majority of Trojans. The usual Snapchats of “streak” or faces with triple chins were replaced with pictures of packed green schedules inviting pity. But accompanying these messages were condescending comments by STEM students of the, in their words, “empty” schedules of students in other colleges. This comparison of schedules, and mockery of those whose course loads mandate fewer hours in a lecture hall or lab, speak to a larger problem omnipresent in the USC community.
One of USC’s academic pillars is its emphasis on interdisciplinary study. In fact, one of the main reasons I chose to attend this University was the unmatched opportunity it offered me to pursue a biology degree, a law-related minor and a passion for journalism.
I stem, pun intended, from a high school which primarily emphasized science and math courses. Though technically considered electives (implying choice), it was abnormal to have graduated without having taken at least one course between AP Biology, AP Chemistry or AP Physics. In short, I hated this environment. As an editor for my high school newspaper, I constantly felt as if the fields not falling under the “STEM” category were underappreciated and misunderstood. As a result, like the needle of a compass drawn north, I was strongly attracted to the promise of pursuing this spectrum of interests in a more accepting setting.
Yet, I haven’t always felt that inclusion. Whether in USC’s official memes group on Facebook or through conversations with peers, the feud between STEM and liberal arts majors is as defined as — if not more than — it was in my high school. And, as with most divisive and stereotype-based issues, both the problem and the solution lie with us.
I will be the first to admit that I too have found myself frustrated with friends who don’t have three lab classes, or those who can still graduate in four years with a couple of 12-unit semesters while I struggle with 18-unit semesters. But if anything, this frustration is not with others, but with ourselves. Temporary stress due to midterms or lab reports is understandable and even healthy — it shows you care. It is a symbol of your ambition and your desire for success in your field of interest. However, persistent frustration, which manifests itself in the form of criticism of those you perceive to have it easier than you do, reveals a deeper insecurity in your own major and choices. If you can’t find that passion for your major within yourself, then the problem exists with you, not with the entire subset of liberal arts or STEM majors.
The solution to this is, once again, easier said than done, but achievable nonetheless. We must make appreciation our first response. We need to appreciate the work students in different fields create that we enjoy. We need to respect the time and effort they put into achieving perfection in their respective fields, whether or not this time is spent in a classroom or in lab on Fridays.
The world thrives on diversity and improvement, and if the opposing fields were as easy or irrelevant as we have portrayed them to be in social media or daily conversation, then they would have ceased to exist several years ago. The fact is that they are thriving, more so now than ever before, and just as much as any other field considered to be more advanced. Rather than emphasizing one end of the subject spectrum, we must embrace it as a whole and refrain from convincing ourselves that the side we have picked is of greater value to society.
Nithya Rajeev is a sophomore majoring in human biology. Her column,“The Spectrum,” runs every other Monday.