By Gabriella Godlewski (CE ’19)
I will never forget the first brush I had of how civil engineers are treated around here. During the freshman orientation trip to Camp Team USA, the upperclassmen put on a play in which the classic “civil engineering is not a real major” line was uttered. I couldn’t help but think, “Civil engineering at Cooper has a curriculum, unlike computer science, but, I mean, okay, I guess.” It was weird to me that this fact was ignored and everyone chose to take a jab at a legitimate major.
Things, as they tend to at Cooper, only got worse.
CivE upperclassmen told me horror stories of how they were treated by their non-civil professors, just because of their major. Freshmen began to catch on. Despite the fact that we are all still academically equal and basically taking the exact same classes, snide comments have passed from freshmen to CivE freshmen, to our faces and behind our backs. I have had “because you’re a CivE” used as an insult to my face from people I sat next to in almost every class. If you are guilty of this practice, you have consciously chosen to perpetuate the hate created by past generations without truly understanding whether or not the hate is deserved. You have accustomed yourselves to an entitlement you have yet to even earn.
Besides the de facto discrimination civil engineers face in some classes taught by certain professors, my own friends have pressured me to “just transfer,” long before I actually began considering it. Where I hoped to find support, I instead found a disregard for why I was here and what I wanted to accomplish. Nothing has proven more disheartening.
It only took a semester and a half but the straw that broke the camel’s back has finally situated itself and demands that this problem be faced – I demand that civil engineers at the Cooper Union be treated with respect because, contrary to ancient belief, we deserve to be taken seriously for our career choices just as much as the rest of you.
I did not choose civil engineering for the “easy workload.” Furthermore, I did not choose civil engineering to be constantly ridiculed and looked down on for this choice I made long before I knew how many classes I was required to take. The reason I and the rest of my fellow civil engineering students chose to major in this field are entirely personal and not without good reason, I can assure you. We never asked for nor do we deserve the hate we get. We respect you for your major choice and we rightfully expect the same from you.
Lastly, to those of you who still think that civil engineering is a useless major, I raise you this: without civil engineers, none of you would have easy access to clean water. Buildings would barely be standing up, and skyscrapers would basically be nonexistent. For those of you who commute on a daily basis, civil engineers are responsible for the roads, the train systems, and, yes, traffic control. We students will one day be the reason you live a relatively safe life with all your basic necessary resources. And you choose to ridicule us?
Of course, here is the necessary disclaimer that my assertion that civil engineering is a legitimate respectable major does not detract at all from the legitimacy and necessity of any other major. As a matter of fact, I can almost guarantee that we civil engineers have only respected your majors, and since that has yet to kill us, it wouldn’t hurt the rest of you.