If you’re an NC State student, you’re likely well aware of how integral the STEM departments are to the university. The College of Engineering always has new additions, whether it be another building, classroom or career fair. There are also numerous additions to the science and mathematics programs. Every time there’s a new project on campus, it’s always connected to something STEM-related. It makes you wonder: Where does the College of Humanities and Social Science (CHASS) fit into all of this?
This year, NC State’s budget expanded due to an increase in North Carolina’s spending plan. This increase in funds is going toward various new projects, with most of it going toward projects related to engineering or natural sciences. Only a fraction of the funds will go toward CHASS, and that’s how it’s been for quite some time now. With the modern day emphasis on STEM as a good academic and career path, it’s no wonder that schools would allocate the most funding to those departments.
There’s been an ongoing myth that humanities and social science degrees are useless and STEM degrees should be what a student pursues regardless of the passion they have for humanities and social sciences. Educational policy-makers have gradually diminished the presence of the humanities in school curricula to make more room for STEM disciplines. The need for employees in the STEM workforce is growing, and as it grows, more people seek to take advantage of the demand. Humanities and social sciences have slowly been pushed to the wayside, and because of this, they receive less and less attention.
This is very evident on the NC State campus, even when just observing the buildings for CHASS classes compared to the STEM buildings. The CHASS buildings, such as Tompkins, Winston and Caldwell Hall, seem largely outdated and have a very old-fashioned look to them. Meanwhile, not even half a mile away, there’s SAS Hall, a mathematics and statistics building that was built less than 20 years ago and is full of advanced classrooms, computer labs and tutorial centers. It is a visibly modernized building, but it doesn’t hold much of a candle to the marvel that we call Centennial Campus.
Centennial Campus is home to the Wilson College of Textiles and, most notably, the College of Engineering. The College of Engineering is perhaps NC State’s most cherished institution, with a large portion of its budget going towards it. Centennial Campus is physical proof of this. It looks incredibly different from the main campus, so much so that you could believe it is a separate school. All of the buildings are quite modernized and very large.
The library on Centennial Campus, James B. Hunt Library, has a very contemporary design both internally and externally. It has numerous technological features and even received international recognition for its use of advanced technology. This library alone cost over $110 million to build. The engineering buildings on Centennial Campus are impressive; they are hundreds of thousands of square feet in size. These buildings have extensive upscale finishings including wood paneling and glass, and various laboratories and classrooms. The overall feel of Centennial is vastly different from the main campus, especially the CHASS buildings. The difference is almost humorous.
Despite the counterproductive culture war between the humanities and STEM, both disciplines are vastly important to the progression of our society. STEM has practical, “real-world” applications that are necessary in our constantly evolving world. Humanities and social sciences, on the other hand, preserve the human experience and enable people to express their thoughts creatively and grow their connections with each other. Having such a stark difference in the attention that these disciplines receive on a college campus creates feelings that STEM is more important and respected than CHASS. In reality, both should be treated equally, as they are both important fields of study in different ways.
I believe that both disciplines should be able to have advanced buildings, cool research spaces and equal exposure to opportunities for internship and career prospects. Because CHASS has the second largest student population at NC State, many students likely feel this way. I hope to see that in the future, CHASS receives contemporary buildings, more faculty members and a broader platform overall that makes CHASS students feel just as important as STEM students.