FOR EVERY MACQUARIE FACULTY THERE IS A “TYPICAL STUDENT”. RAELEE LANCASTER GATHERED A TEAM, THREE FROM THE SCIENCE FACULTY AND THREE FROM THE ARTS FACULTY, AND ASKED THEM TO DESCRIBE THIS STUDENT FOR US TO HELP GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THESE STEREOTYPES.
WORDS | Raelee Lancaster
There is a distinct division between the Arts and Science faculties. This split can be largely due to stereotyping – a very common part of our culture. We automatically associate something with a particular group or person based on their ethnicity, religion, age, gender, or socio-economic background. With university life, the stereotypes surrounding arts and science students are renowned. At one end of the spectrum, we have the introverted, nerdy science students donning white lab coats. At the other end, sit the lazy, hippy arts students, dressing in their bohemian-inspired attire.
Some science students are under the impression that their workload is harder because they have to complete more hours of study a week than arts students. “You do an arts degree so you can get a job serving at Macca’s,” Cameron, a science student studying a Masters of Research in Environmental Geology, jokes.
Jhade, a Biology and Chemistry student, also pokes fun at arts students by recounting a story of her father who also studied science at university. Jhade’s father would go into public bathrooms and write, “pull for an arts degree” on the toilet paper. While these comments may be light-hearted and funny, the mentality behind them is very real. Both Jhade and Matthew, an Environmental Science student, describes them as “artsy- fartsy” and “airy-fairy” when they were asked to describe a typical arts student.
Yet Isabel, an arts student, believes that “being an arts student means studying whatever I like, following my interests, and learning more about all kinds of things”.
Tjanara, another arts student, describes an arts degree as, “a pathway for students to find out where they truly want to be.” She also says that, “arts students can feel victimised with people constantly telling them their degree isn’t on the same level as anyone else’s. People see [an arts degree] as a bludge, and the students aren’t as motivated to gain an education as everyone else.”
Although science students can be seen to have a ‘harsh’ view of arts students, arts students can also be quite critical when it comes to stereotyping science students. “Science students seem to think that because they have so many more on-campus hours
that they do more work than [arts students],” Isabel comments. Aimee, a student studying a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science, thinks similarly, “I find arts students to be more open-minded.” She admits that “science students are more study-driven. They have to be very strict and controlled in their lifestyle”.
“There are all sorts [of science students],” says Mathew.
Jhade agrees, and points to TV shows like The Big Bang Theory as one of the key instigators of stereotyping. “Going to university where you’re surrounded by such a diverse group of people, it’s quite difficult to see that science stereotype.”
Cameron also comments on how the media and TV shows, such as The Big Bang Theory, influence people’s views about science students. He said that the only ‘true’ stereotype was that science students are in the lab all day. At night, however, they appear to strip away the white lab coat in exchange for “a beer or five” at the Ubar. “We are the most outgoing and fun people out there! We love going out and having too much to drink, and getting crazy,” Cameron says in the Science faculty’s defence. “My friends from Geology and Environmental Earth Science are all extremely friendly and laid back.”
“With all of the conflict surrounding arts and science stereotypes, it may be impossible to completely overcome stereotyping”
Nevertheless, Macquarie University has attempted to aid the process by creating compulsory ‘People’ and ‘Planet’ units. ‘People’ and ‘Planet’ units are specified units generally located under, but not limited to, the arts and science faculties, respectively. “It is interesting to learn stuff from outside of your field,” Cameron states when he is asked about the compulsory units. “[They] help break up the monotony and introduce you to new people.”
These units, according to Macquarie University’s website, are designed to “help students achieve a broad understanding of the challenges and issues in today’s world.”
Both Mathew and Cameron, however, wouldn’t go so far as stating that the units will make students broaden their perspectives and open their minds. Yet Isabel begs to differ. “People complain about [the units], but having completed them myself, I found that they have added to my university experience,” she says. “I think they are achieving what they’re supposed to.” Tjanara also comments on the units:
“They allow you to see issues in a different perspective through classes that you aren’t used to.”
While ‘People’ and ‘Planet’ units are helpful and allow arts and science students to interact and study together, stereotypes appear to be very present and not going away anytime soon. Stereotypes exist for a reason. There has to be some fact in amongst the fiction for stereotypes to be so fully ingrained into the hearts and minds of everybody, not just university students.
Arts students do tend to have fewer on-campus hours and their workload is not always as massive as that of a science student. Science students tend to have a “black and white” mentality, with their yes or no questions and answers, and every unit is almost always guaranteed to have an end-of-semester exam.
However, not every arts student is a lazy, poncho- wearing hippy, and not every science student is a nerdy, prescription-lenses-wearing egotist. So instead of seeing your facility’s stereotypes as an annoying hindrance, I suggest embracing it.