Majors Clash

by sunny kim

“Hi. My name is Sunny, and I’m double majoring in Asian American Studies and Business.”

As soon as I introduce myself, I can feel the judgments people are making.

At Haas, business students usually ask a follow-up question, curious as to how my other major will be of any use in the future. In ethnic studies spaces, people assume that I am aiming to land a corporate job, making bank right out of college.

I used to feel like I did not fit the image of an “ideal” member of either community. I felt like I did not have enough knowledge or insight to contribute to my ethnic studies space, and I was especially afraid of being criticized for not being politically correct or showing any signs of conservatism. Within my business space, I never felt an immense desire to pursue consulting or investment banking like most of my peers did.

However, after a while I began to view the intersection of my two very different majors from a new angle. I no longer viewed myself as not fitting in, but rather, as the connection between two spaces that rarely interact. For example, very few people at Haas witnessed the March 4th strikes or the Blackout on Sproul. And if they witnessed it, they were confused as two why those events were happening. Some have made ignorant and insensitive comments as a result, but I found it difficult to blame them.

I know it appears unfair that the business school is able to provide so many free things that I do not even take advantage of while other departments are always in fear of cuts. However, in exchange for these privileges, Haas creates an environment which deters students from engaging in student activism.

Business courses are structured in a way that teaches students to accept the knowledge that is presented to them without challenging it. In essence, this overall mentality keeps students from being politicized and aware. There was never a discussion or announcement in any of my classes about the walkout strikes at all, and it doesn’t help that Haas is on the edge of campus, isolated from Sproul.

Furthermore, Haas professors sent out emails discouraging students from participating in the strike on March 4th. The message was that these strikes could jeopardize our academic future and that this crisis did not concern Haas students.

The tragedy is that this crisis concerned Haas students even more than most others because of the proposed differential fee that would raise tuition by an additional $1,000 for those enrolled in the Haas program.

On the other hand, Ethnic Studies is structured and functions in a completely different way. The courses teach students to be critical of the information they receive and engage in dialogue. Students learn to critique the actions of the school administration, and in the process, become politicized through student activism.

As a member of this community, I was informed of when, where, why, and how the Blackout and March 4th were happening through classroom announcements and emails sent by students who were involved in organizing the two events. In addition, I was also able to gain a deeper insight by participating in dialogues that discussed the events inside and outside the classroom.

However, I am often disappointed to find that the opportunity to actively participate in ethnic studies discussions is only available to those who have adopted ethnic studies vocabulary. Throwing around terms such as “privilege” and “social constructs” can be intimidating and people outside that circle, such as business majors, may feel uninvited to participate.

As part of a community that is fighting to be included, I find it hypocritical that there is an invisible rule that allows people to contribute only the knowledge that will earn snaps while holding back from making controversial statements. This not only goes against the principle of inclusivity but also inhibits the growth of knowledge. Just as we are critical of society, Ethnic Studies majors need to be critical of their own behavior.

Although the difference between the two majors creates a gap between the two respective communities of students, these communities can be bridged. I can speak from personal experience. I am pleasantly surprised that when I try to educate my Haas peers on why these events are happening and why Ethnic Studies is valuable, they listen and show a willingness to learn more. Ignorance exists, but there is also hope to eliminate ignorance through education.

Given the ongoing campus-wide financial and political turmoil, now is especially a crucial time to break down the walls between the two fields and to collaborate across spaces in order to further advance our struggles within higher education.