On Friday, 22 March 2013, my statuesque Economics professor posed the following question to my soporific class, which scantily filled Auditorium 2:
“Does y4 multiplied by y5 equal y9or y20?”
Having spent the first 25 minutes of class with my head down and my eyes glued to a riveting article written by The Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta, I sensed an upward inflexion in my Professor’s voice; he was asking a question. With no response from the audience, he repeated the question.
With my head still oriented down towards my iPhone, I whispered audibly under my breath, along with a 100 or so students, “y to the power 9”.
“If you said y20…you should move to the Faculty of Arts” the Professor says, with an indelible smirk.
The entire audience erupts into laughter…except three students.
I lift my head up, zero in on his mouth in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, my ears have deceived me and that he hasn’t just said “you should move to the Faculty of Arts”. But his comedic stance coupled with his smug demeanour chillingly wiped away this hope, he has in fact made a joke at the expense of us Arts students.
“Wow…Did he just…? We do not deserve this, I’m just going to get his signature and leave” and with that, two students from the Faculty of Arts left a second-year core Economics class.
I stayed. I stayed for the remaining 95 minutes of the Professor’s class. I don’t quite know why I stayed. I definitely wasn’t learning any new material; I had read through the chapter the night before. I could have easily walked out with those two students as I had the Professor’s signature in my hands.
So why did I stay? Was I trying to make a point to the Professor that an Arts student could handle an Economics class? But the thing is I was certain that he didn’t know who I was in that Auditorium of 150 nameless students. So maybe I stayed to prove something to myself. Maybe he re-ignited that debilitating uncertainty all students are plagued with when they pursue a major outside their comfort zone. Why I stayed is unclear, but how he made us feel was unambiguous; we felt small, stigmatised and stupid.
Contrary to what many believe, we do not draw. We may annotate our 300-page unit readers with highlighters and coloured pens, and so you may think this constitutes as drawing, but it is not. Drawing entails pleasure, creativity and leisure. Reading, critically analysing, and understanding 4 x 300 pages of scholarly articles require one to have a remarkable capacity for patience, self-discipline and an insurmountable amount of time.
I think it’s time to incinerate the stigma plastered to all Arts students, and I think this shift in attitude and respect starts with the Professors.