By Katie Meyer
An email sent by Gabelli administrators to all Fordham College students on Monday night has irked liberal arts students, highlighting a possible point of contention between these liberal arts students and business students on campus.
Students questioned the tone of the email, calling it condescending. This sparked online comments and on-campus discussion about the perceived marketability and value of liberal arts degrees.
The email, from the official Gabelli School of Business account, was titled “Special summer opportunity for Fordham College students.” It detailed a five-week “Summer Business Intensive” program designed for liberal arts students.
It started off with a bold header: “We can help make your liberal arts degree more marketable. Give us five weeks.” It went on to explain a course that promises to help liberal arts majors and business minors to “plan for their future,” “raise money,” “track their earnings and expenses,” “assess their performance” and “brand and promote a product.”
The email also promoted the summer program as being “easy-to-understand, [and] accessible,” a statement that has apparently hit a nerve with FCRH students, many of whom took who took to social media to express indignation over what they perceived as a slight to their studies.
“Thanks Gabelli for making business “easy to understand” for us liberal arts students,” read one tweet from user @laurenkeefe39. Another student under the handle @Mistur_Rogers, tweeted
“Wow, that Gabelli email was the most condescending thing I’ve ever read.” And, user @elenam112 said, “I guess Gabelli could have used an English major to help them convey their objectives more tactfully.”
Student satire blog, The Ramtime Times, also caught on to the climate of annoyance, publishing a parody of the offending email titled “Gabelli Students: We Can Help Make Your Business Degree Less Douchey. Give Us Five Weeks.” It includes promises to help business students learn to “Consider the perspectives of others before speaking,” and “Avoid alienating the entire liberal arts college of their university in one email.”
Reached for comment, university spokesman Bob Howe sent out an official statement on the issue.
“The intent of the ad was certainly not to imply that a liberal arts degree is less useful in the marketplace than a business degree,” it read. “In retrospect, it’s easy to see that the ad could be read that way, and for that we apologize: it’s neither a fair nor true characterization.”
Howe’s statement continued, noting that “The summer intensive was conceived as a plus, not a substitute, for a liberal arts education. In fact, Gabelli requires a full liberal arts core, with most students taking about half their total course load in the liberal arts, both because we believe it makes for a well-rounded person, and because it makes our business students more marketable.”
He also, however, expressed displeasure over The Ramtime Times’ take on the matter.
“The satire, though, is regrettable,” Howe’s email said. “It presupposes that business students are all of a type, and that type is deficient in personality, empathy and common decency. The reality is that Gabelli students are deeply engaged in the world, intellectually curious and are very committed to service work.”
In September 2014, the university formed a task force to “deeply examine liberal arts education and articulate its value for students.” The university, according to a post on Inside Fordham, is expected to unveil its findings at the end of the academic year.