Alec Says

It’s a dreary Saturday afternoon with a 100% chance of precipitation, which should be spent, by any right-thinking person, in bed with a cup of hot chocolate and a big fat book. Instead, I trudged through the rain to the engineering labs to spend four hours finishing a lab. It’s for a class that I’ve been looking forward to since Spring 2008 (yes – I’m a nerd), and like the other class I’m looking forward to, it has a few unexpected pitfalls, like labs every. single. week.

The other class is senior design, which is run by a college that  refuses to allocate an actual budget to our projects, and expects us to pay out of our own pockets.

My room mate was actually extremely surprised that I didn’t know this was the case. “It’s ECE,” she said, pointing out the blindingly obvious fact that a college program which has had to cancel major classes can’t really afford to shell out money for us to blow up microcontrollers en route to building our time machine. Let’s also not go into the insanely out-of-date instruments they use in electronics classes, where you literally have to do an arcane version of that game where you stand with your limbs in various positions on a board, just to be able to get the BNC connectors to give you the right data.

Why yes, I am a little bitter.

Look, I understand that Biomed engineering uses a lot of fancy bio equipment and that they need some extra space because they never really had it. But it’s seriously a bit of a poke in ECE’s eye if the Gods of Budget Allocation stick BME in a shiny new building made especially for them, while completely ignoring the fact that the ECE complex looks like an extra out of an Industrial-era horror movies set. Also, may I point out that Mech engineering has Windows Vista and we, until this summer, suffered with Windows 2000? In a building perpetually haunted by people who speak in bits and put together computer circuits for fun, this goes beyond a moral outrage.

Actually, wait, since this is Vista, perhaps we’re better off anyway.

Recently, ECE has been so strapped for cash that they actually sent out an email to current students asking for money. This, when the aforementioned current students are shipping parts only from companies that give them away for free. When I was a little girl, I thought engineering was made up of smart people. But in all seriousness, I would give them money, once I graduated and began working. The thought of making future ECE generations suffer these humiliations is really so silly, when I could do something about it.

But my room mate’s reaction was surprising, to me. “I’m not giving anything,” she declared. “I’m going to graduate, why should I care?”

I wondered later if that’s really part of the problem – people just graduate and move on, and it never occurs to them to think about what could have been improved. Anyway who has the time? I’m likely to do the same thing myself.

But another reason UT might not be getting donations from alumni could have something to do with the high proportions of international students there.

I’ve nothing against international students, per se, seeing as I am one myself. But the idea with many of them, as far as I can see, is to come to the US, work your butt off for a degree, and then get a job or leave for home. There doesn’t seem to be any real loyalty to the country or to the university that granted them the degree or job. I’m not going to claim that I understand American customs, or that I’m easing into American culture, but I do know that living here has given me a level of mental independence I would never have achieved at home. Similarly, I love UT in my own way – not for the parties and football, but really for some of the amazing people and professors and classes I’ve met and taken.

That level of identification is something I don’t really expect to see amongst international students, for some reason. For so many people, including me the first year or so, college in the US seems like such a transitory experience.  I have an idea that it’s something to do with culture or something, but that’s a thought for some other day when it’s not this early in the morning.

But actually look,  honestly, think about it – do you want to graduate and then be told you were from a formerly good university that once could actually afford the funds to keep its finest professors? Oh, the horror.


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