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May 30, 2024

The Krieger School of Arts and Crafts vs. The Whining School of Engineering

By CARISSA ZUKOWSKI | November 23, 2013

There seem to be two distinct groups of students at Hopkins: the BMEs, and the rest. From the moment we freshmen go around the room and introduce ourselves at orientation, everyone knows who the BMEs are. It only takes a few months on the Homewood campus for this unspoken, self-imposed undergraduate hierarchy to solidify. From superior to inferior, the ranking on campus goes as follows: BMEs, other engineers, pre-meds in the Krieger School, and then everyone else. We are judged based on our majors and what we choose to study. People make empty assumptions about workload and degree of difficulty of classes. Not everyone thinks this way, but enough do to create a strata that bounds the students in both the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering.

In daily conversation, for example, I often hear the phrase “Krieger School of Arts and Crafts” thrown around by BMEs and engineers alike. While clever, yes, this slogan carries with it a negative connotation. It implies that the School of Arts and Sciences is less rigorous than the School of Engineering.

But just because the workload is more for the BMEs (as they are allowed to take more credit hours than the students of the Krieger School) does not mean anything in regards to the intensity and legitimacy of either school. Disturbingly, however, those who referring to the Krieger School as the “School of Arts and Crafts” attempt to assert their dominance at the expense of another person’s hard work.

When asked about the phrase, one anonymous BME student told me “[T]here are people in arts and science who seem like they could not have gotten into the School of Engineering, further adding to the idea that Arts and Sciences is much easier than engineering. Thus, the term ‘arts and crafts,’ in my mind, does not stem from a disrespect of the school itself, but from a difference in the caliber of student and amount of work.”

It’s easy to see how this mindset, even if presented as a game of teasing, can be viewed as hurtful and insensitive. When asked how they felt about the “Arts and Crafts” label, Public Health and French double-major Eda Akpek replied “It is just rude how someone could be judgemental about the rigor of someone else’s course work. You can make anything as hard or intense as you like, it doesn’t matter what discipline it is. What matters is how invested you are.” Jai Thakor, a Molecular and Cellular Biology Major, feels the label “doesn’t recognize the breadth and complexity of the natural sciences” because “[m]any of the fields in arts and sciences are interdisciplinary and incorporate principles of engineering”, while even one anonymous BME major admitted the phrase “implies that Krieger students...take the easy route when the truth is they are striving just as hard to pursue their higher education (and, from what I can see, it's not any easier for them anyways).”

Each of these students identified engineers as the ones who use the slogan “Arts and Crafts,” and addressed the division between BME students and everyone else. But one particularly understanding BME reminded me that: “Teasing can go both ways. Probably the best comeback I have heard is ‘Says the student from the Whining School of Engineering’. I kind of hope [this] catches on, because Krieger deserves some fodder.”

Whether you are in the “Kreiger School of Arts and Crafts” or the “Whining School of Engineering,” and whether you are offended by this hierarchy or choose to simply ignore it, it is unacceptable that as a community we belittle and devalue the classes that our peers take. It’s not even limited to between the schools; this prejudice exists among smaller classifications as well. Between athletes and nonathletes, natural sciences and humanities majors, BMEs and ChemBEs, the list goes on and on. We do this whenever we refer to a class as “Rocks for Jocks”, or even just an “easy A.” What may be easy or a “joke” class for one person isn’t necessarily that for another.

Carissa is a freshman majoring in English and Art History from Baltimore, MD. She is a staff writer for the Opinions section.

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