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Too many business majors?

David Barrett | Tuesday, November 11, 2003

To touch upon the topic of Notre Dame having too many business majors, I agree, for all the obvious reasons. College is a time for essays rather than scantrons. It should teach us to think critically and write fluidly, and to raise questions rather than provide answers. It doesn’t, for most of us.

College seems more like a quick fix. Maybe for a moment or two, you think about doing things right this semester, picking a class for content rather than because the teacher thinks Bs are simply too harsh. However, your initial urge to study Islamic architecture is countered by an online review that says the teacher’s accent is hard to understand. Furthermore, it’s four credits, meets on Fridays and isn’t listed as American Studies. So you decide not to take it, to settle instead for a self-paced psychology class with computerized quizzes and no final.

In an effort not to alienate everybody who reads this, I’d like to toast all PLS majors. Probably not reading this, but nonetheless a commendable group. Nowhere else will you find a classroom full of kids so committed to learning. I know because, along with two of my roommates, I gave it a shot sophomore year.

We learned how pointless it would seem to read 800 pages for one class meeting, only to freeze up and not say one single word about it. Yet that’s what we did, week after week. We did it because it seemed right. It was encouraging to know that we were actually studying something worthwhile. On top of that, we would sit across from some of the smartest people on campus and listen to them say what our teacher, who had read the book 30 times, simply couldn’t.

It was awesome, and we all bailed out by Christmas.

It was one of those times when I really had to sit down and ask myself, who am I? What is college and why am I here? At the time, I really didn’t know. I wasn’t sure if it was a group of seniors doing keg stands in a living room screaming “College rules,” or the precocious 12-year-old with the 10-gallon backpack headed to the library on a Saturday.

So I went the safe route and chose the middle road. Like usual. I decided to cover my business bases with an economics major, and maintain my intellectual integrity with the philosophy. It’s only that now I find myself applying to law schools that I question my decision to leave PLS, and to constantly toe the line throughout my years here.

It pretty much all stems from a letter I got in the mail from my dad the other day. His post-it told me, “You might want to consider this approach.” Attached was a letter from a Jewish Iraqi-American, who had recently graduated from Harvard and was hoping to attend their law school. Of course, he was already admitted, and was just trying to solicit a little financial help from philanthropists like my father.

This guy was an admission board’s golden boy. He was a minority. He had achieved success despite having a disadvantaged youth, appeared on television multiple times, served in and started numerous clubs and interned at the White House. Included in his request for sponsorship, and beneath the list of his many accomplishments, was a landscape he painted in the fourth grade. A true prodigy, who made sure to include that he runs 15 to 20 miles each week.

Anyway, this got me thinking to my sorry state of affairs. I guess I could write somebody important telling him how much I’ve achieved. Perhaps I could boast of my intramural involvement. I was a two-sport phenomenon my freshman year, and the first in Notre Dame history. Or maybe I could brag about all I’ve accomplished in the classroom, and show them the obscenities I carved into my desk that semester. No, I know, I should tell about those times I ate without any utensils at the dining hall. I figure that is worth at least half of my tuition.

The truth is, I wish I had done more with my time here. I find that people spend more time marketing themselves and reshaping their resumes than actually learning. College has become a prerequisite. For many, all that matters is their salary when they come out. But I’m not just talking about business majors. They were just the ones smart enough to realize what they really wanted early enough their sophomore year.

Sure, if I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I would. I would make sure to take the Islamic architecture class, because when else would I have that chance? I would work past his difficult accent and get through the long reading assignments.

And when I was done with all that, I’d sit down, paint a landscape, and write a letter.

You know, just to cover my bases.

David Barrett is a senior economics and philosophy major. Contact him at dbarret1@nd.edu.The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.