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Faculty approve business major proposal

Proposed curriculum to integrate business and liberal arts

Published: March 6, 2009
Section: Front Page

BUSINESS Members of the faculty vote in favor of creating a business major yesterday.  If approved by the Board of Trustees on March 25, the creation of the major would mark a change in the university’s attitude toward the field of buisness.<br /><i>PHOTO BY Ariel Wittenberg</i>

BUSINESS Members of the faculty vote in favor of creating a business major yesterday. If approved by the Board of Trustees on March 25, the creation of the major would mark a change in the university’s attitude toward the field of buisness.
PHOTO BY Ariel Wittenberg

Part III of IV in a series on Academic restructuring

The faculty voted to approve the Curriculum and Academic Restructuring Steering (CARS) committee’s business major proposal yesterday, officially approving a major that has long been considered.

In order to become a reality, the Business major proposal will have to be passed by the university’s Board of Trustees, however, it has the support of university President Jehuda Reinharz, and Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe.

If the major is instituted, it would mark the addition of a program of study which many have viewed as in conflict with liberal arts.

Prof. Ben Gomes-Casseres (IBS), who chairs the CARS subcommittee which developed the Business major, said that the passing of this proposal marks a change in how the university thinks of liberal arts.

“Liberal arts now is just as much about how we teach a subject as it is about the subject we are teaching,” he said, adding that the new business major would involve “liberal arts aspects. It would be about critical thinking on a broad view of material.”

The business major, if passed, will contain two tracks, “Business and society” and “Business administration.” Gomes-Casseres said that regardless of which track future business majors choose, the major will focus on business’ role in society.

“Understanding business is very much like understanding government,” he said. “Government is about how power is allocated, business is about how resources are allocated. Either way, it is about how the people with the resources and the power relate to society.”

The possible creation of the business major comes in response to the university’s need to increase student enrollment by 100 students per year over the next four years in an effort to use tuition to alleviate the university’s current budget crisis.

Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Jean Eddy told members of the faculty at a meeting yesterday that the business major will help to increase applications, which in turn will allow the university admit more students without decreasing the “quality of the Brandeis student body.”

According to the business major proposal, 17 percent of college applicants nation wide are interested in pursuing a major in business; however, less than five percent of Brandeis applicants express similar interests.

Eddy told the faculty that adding a business major would help admissions tap into that applicant pool.

Still, she said, Brandeis’ business program will be unique and attract students “who are interested in business and all other sorts of education,” adding that the way Brandeis’ business major will be constructed will make it easy for students to double major.

In the past there have been concerns that adding a business major to the Brandeis curriculum would attract “the wrong type of student”—or students uninterested in social justice and solely focused on making money. These concerns were echoed in the most recent round of debate around the business major.

Gomes-Casseres, however, disagrees with these concerns, saying that adding a business major will not attract students who “want pure business,” and that students who are uninterested in a liberal arts education would apply to pre-professional schools like Babson or Bentley.

“This program is not set up for a student who only wants to learn accounting,” he said. “This is a program to help students figure out if they like business and want to pursue it, and just to learn about business even if they go into other fields.”

Gomes-Casseres used the university’s namesake Justice Louis D. Brandeis—a staunch trust-busting advocate—as an example for how knowledge of business could help students interested in other fields.

While some have opposed the business major, calling it a pre-professional major, Gomez Casseres said that the university has other academic programs, such as Health: Science, Society and Policy, that prepare students for life after Brandeis.

“The goal of the major is to produce students who are engaged in the world and understand businesses role in it,” he said. “No one will come out of this looking like a corporate servant,” he said.