Wednesday, January 27, 2010

#71: Viewpoint Wars

The Observer is one of the most loved or hated things at Notre Dame.  Some students make sure to read it every day, always checking the Question of the Day (see #46), the Viewpoint section, the front page, and (of course) the comics.  Other students almost never pick up the paper, instead opting to read the complimentary national newspapers with their dining hall meals.

However, if there is one thing that can get every Notre Dame Student to pick up and read The Observer, it is raging Viewpoint war about a controversial issue.  While some of these issues come up for a short while (such as Barack Obama speaking at commencement) and will probably never appear in the Viewpoint section again, many issues that create Viewpoint wars appear in the section on an almost annual basis.

Issues such as the unique relationship between Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s (see #43.5), the disappointing nature of the football team, bookstore basketball team names, violence off-campus, single-sex dorms, and the acceptance of LGBT students at Notre Dame appear quite frequently in the pages of the viewpoint section.  Nearly every year an incident will happen that will again bring these issues to the forefront and cause even the most reluctant Notre Dame Student to pick up The Observer and read the next level of rhetorical sparring.

When The Observer is in the midst of a Viewpoint War, their e-mail inbox is flooded with letters and comments about the controversy.  Even the most passive Notre Dame Student wants to get their two cents in and takes to their laptop to pen the most passionate (and usually predictable) argument possible.  The section becomes dominated by the single topic for days and weeks (or, in the case of Obama, months), and columns or letters not pertaining to the war simply fall by the wayside.

Viewpoint Wars are important because they depict Notre Dame Students at their best (or, more often, at their worst).  While they are always overblown, they depict the issues that are important to the student body, and the ones that are most controversial amongst the student body.  They get the students actively talking about topics, and they throw the most troublesome issues into the limelight.  Because of this, Notre Dame Students love Viewpoint Wars.

Monday, January 11, 2010

#70: Switching from Engineering to Business

Notre Dame Students have high expectations.  They expect a lot out of their professors: hoping for slides to be put online and class notes to be printed out.  They expect a lot from their Thursday nights: hoping for plenty of drinking and time to see all of their friends.  They expect a lot from their football team: a national championship or bust.  Most of all, however, Notre Dame Students expect a lot out of themselves.

Expecting a lot from themselves, students enter the University of Notre Dame expecting to participate in difficult and promising majors.  They state their intention to major in Pre-Med or Architecture or Science or Engineering knowing that these majors are complicated, and knowing that their completion will be challenging. 

Soon enough, however, Notre Dame Students will switch their major from Engineering (or a similarly taxing major) to Business (or a similarly less complicated major).

There are many reasons for this traditional switch in major (which usually comes in the second or third semester).  Some of these students had been originally pressured by their parents to do something they don’t want to do (and then rebel, because they are in college).  Many students were led to believe that their strengths were in math and science simply because they were great at these subjects in high school.  Other students simply do not know what they want to do with their life when they are 18 years old.

The most important reason, however, that students change their majors from engineering to business is so that these students have plenty of time to do things that are SO college at night and on the weekends (see #11).  While engineering classes have labs on Friday afternoons (and pre-med classes have their own things to do then), most business classes allow students to have wide open schedules on these Friday afternoons (and for upperclassmen, all of Friday) so that they can start their weekend off right.

Furthermore, the amount of work that business students have (and the level of attentiveness these students need for their classes) allow these students to spend many weeknights doing nothing but watching television and playing drinking games.  Once students realize that these are the things they want to take away from their college experience, they realize that it is time to change majors.

This major switch is exemplified by the science-business and math-business majors that appear for many sophomores.  These majors are briefly declared by many students who believe they need a change, but want to keep up the appearance that they are more academic than their business counterparts.  Usually they hold this distinction over the heads of their business-only friends for a semester or two pretending that they might actually go to med school until they realize the easier work load of a business major is the right way to go, and they declare a business-only major.

Overall, changing from engineering to a business major is one of the most popular major switches at the University of Notre Dame, a switch that is always taken lightly.