This year, I enrolled in the Ross School of Business from the College of Literature, Science and Arts to be on track for pursuing dual degrees in English and Business. Now that the first semester is nearly over, I’ve noticed some notable differences between the schools. More specifically, I’ve found that the Business School is very different from what I expected.
One key difference is that the Business School focuses on the future while LSA focuses on the present. As a Business student, I’ve noticed that I am constantly pushed to think about the future: There are recruiters in the Winter Garden most days and I constantly overhear people talking about upcoming interviews and job offers. Every sophomore is required to create a résumé and refine it until we get a certain score on an online résumé grader — VMock — as part of one of our classes.
In contrast, my LSA professors rarely discuss our future careers, and instead will only ask about my major. Sometimes, they’ll ask whether or not I have any idea what kind of career I want to pursue. Granted, most of my courses were humanities and social science-related, so I don’t know if this is the same in other disciplines. I’ve also found that my LSA professors are much more likely to discuss current issues than my Business professors are (though instructors in general usually shy away from such topics), and that the coursework more easily ties in with non-business related current events than my Ross coursework does.
Other differences include the ambience: While LSA courses are so diverse and plentiful that defining an exact atmosphere is impossible, Ross is most decidedly cutthroat and stressful. This is largely due to the Business School distribution (or the “Ross curve”) that assigns a certain percentage of students to a grade range for each class. While this system suggests that receiving good grades in Ross courses is easy, the exams are extremely difficult, making it difficult to receive an A. Moreover, because of the distribution, students don’t necessarily have to do well on the exams to receive a good grade: They just need to do better than their peers. This creates an extremely competitive atmosphere in which students are constantly worried about their peers’ performances just as much as they are worried about their own.
Interestingly, the Business School also places a great deal of importance on teamwork. Most of our assignments are completed in groups and often take hours to finish, requiring students to meet with their teams on a regular basis. We’re provided with tutors who are available multiple times a week, as well as peer advisors with whom we can speak should we have any questions about academics or recruiting.
This stark contrast between the nature of the distribution, which pits students against each other, and the need to work in teams, which connects students, baffles me: How can a school that stresses the importance of collaboration in every part of its curriculum use a grading system that fosters unhealthy competition among its students? I do understand that the grading system does mimic the business world — people in business all compete for the same opportunities. However, having to work with other students while knowing that they probably secretly want me to fail my exams so that they do better, and at times feeling the same way about them, makes me feel as though our collaboration is marred by superficiality. This isn’t to say that Business students don’t care about each other — students in the Business School commiserate about their shared classes (we all take the same core courses) and are always much more willing to help each other than I’ve noticed students in my LSA courses are.
The part about the Business School that surprised me the most, however, is how different it is from its reputation, which can be surmised in one word: Rosshole. There’s a clear image of who exactly a “Rosshole” is: He’s a rich white guy from New York whose parents work on Wall Street. He wears Patagonia and Canada Goose, interned or plans to intern at Goldman Sachs and is a frat bro. He rides a Bird around campus in a suit. Do these types of students exist in the Business School? Absolutely. However, they don’t make up the entire student population, and the term “Rosshole” is based on mostly false assumptions.
There’s a statement that a senior at the Business School I spoke with last year told me that sums up what being a student at the Business School is like: She said that if I do join the Business School, I’ll meet both the best and worst people I’ll ever meet. This is pretty spot on. I’ve met some really wonderful people at the Business School whom I hope I can continue to get to know even after I graduate. Most people in the Business School, including people I don’t even know, have extended offers to help me with anything I need, whether that be with fine-tuning my résumé, completing my homework or just venting about school. I’ve only met a couple of people who I wouldn’t mind never seeing again.
In addition, the awful people at the Business School aren’t exceptionally meaner or more annoying than the generic asshole (more high-strung, maybe). But the truth is that there are annoying and privileged people everywhere. Business students aren’t special in that department. “LSAhole” just doesn’t have the same ring to it that “Rosshole” has — and truthfully, because the Rosshole stereotype has little merit, I find the term to be strangely endearing.
Of course, the Business School is far from perfect. According to the Office of the Registrar, about 63 percent of students enrolled as of fall 2018 are male, while only about 37 percent are female. There are also 2,208 white students out of the 4,223 enrolled and only 142 Black students and 218 Hispanic students. These numbers belie the need for more diversity in the Business School, and while they have been becoming more even in recent years, Ross must be held responsible for working towards more diversity.
Therefore, stereotypes such as the “Rosshole” that are parroted by students are mostly untrue and oversimplify the real problem of diversity in the Business School and the University as a whole. As a student enrolled in both the Business School and LSA, it’s become clear to me that there’s the strange tension between the two schools that is unnecessary and founded on misguided beliefs. Being in both schools certainly requires finesse at times, but it shouldn’t be because of any friction between the two schools.
Krystal Hur can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org