Running Away From the Arts

As the third month of her senior year of high school ends Dima Hamdan’s responsibilities pour on her like the heavy November rain of that month. Homework, Exams, and the ghost of her SAT's terrify her, but the windstorm of them all is her college application.

She begins to fill her red covered Lebanese American University application with a pencil first incase she makes a mistake. Hamdans’s major is to be English Literature. A day later, she writes Accounting with ink instead.

As high school students graduate a myriad of mixed emotions follow them. A feeling of ambiguity is born, whither or not they chose the right major, or why they chose it.

Based on the office of Institutional Research & Assessment, in the fall of 2011, 7,500 undergraduate students were enrolled at the Lebanese American University. Out of those, 783 students were enrolled into the art majors, which consist of nine branches. Two thousand five hundred and twelve students opted for business instead; which consists of three branches and nine emphasis in business studies.

The trend carries on to the fall of 2013 with 8,146 students enrolled; 686 students were in arts, which now consist of 11 branches. Business is still more popular with 2,392 students, 3 branches and seven emphasis in business studies.

“ I chose business because I thought it was the safe thing to do,” says Omar Salman a 19-year-old sophomore business major, Salman continues and says, “ I wanted to do journalism but I decided against it.”

Salman is not a rare case; many students view the arts to be a risky major.

According to Dr. Paul Tabar, associate professor of sociology/anthropology at LAU Beirut, “ people who can make a decent income are driven by financial reasons and art degrees are not in the current socio-economic system capable of generating an income.”

At noon, 40 students rush to the Adnan Kassar building in the Lebanese American University’s (LAU) Beirut campus, to attend their introduction to marketing class. A huge classroom, the instructor was forced to raise her voice the highest she can in order to reach her audience. The silent whisper of students who fail to communicate with the instructor become a lullaby, and the air-condition big enough to give every one of us a gentle breeze made it a perfect spot for a siesta.

While some students pursue business since it is safer, other feel so strongly about their choice. “ I do not like reading, I like managing and dealing with numbers more, besides in school they concentrated on math more,” says Omar Halabi a 20-year-old business student.

Indeed, according to The World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Information Technology Report, Lebanon was ranked one of top 5 countries of the World for Math and Science education.

Nourhan Kazak a 19-year-old sophomore Literature major believes that to be a bad thing. “ Literature is undermined in Lebanon and school students should be more encouraged to read.” The English major goes on and says, “ The educational system actually makes students hate reading because in school we had only 2 hours of English a week.”

At 9 a.m. at the first week of university, 5 English majors take their time to walk to their History of English class in Nicol building in LAU Beirut, as they are sure they don’t have to attend 10 minutes earlier just to find a seat. As they sit down in a group, their instructor informs them that this class would be a tutorial, meaning they would only attend once a week since they are only a few. Disappointed, the students were compensated with their instructor’s lively character.

“ I wish all my classes were like this.” Exclaims Malak Hijazi a 20-year-old junior English major. “The instructor explained it as if the Norman Conquest was happening before my eyes.” Rejoices Mustafa Zein a 22-year-old senior minoring in English.

Various high school students hold the belief that following the business track in life will save them for being lost. “I don’t know what I am going to do in my life so I am just going to major in business,” says 17-year-old Ali Mokdad.

Zulfa Jamal who has a bachelor’s in psychology believes that parents somehow affect their children choices. “ If parents don’t let their children explore what they like, they will end up following the trend and just do any major to get a degree.”

A concerned parent Issam Halawi stopped his daughter from majoring in philosophy. “ I counseled my daughter to major in business instead of philosophy, since philosophy does not bring food to the table.” Halawi supports his arguments and says, “Business can get you a decent salary at the end of the day.”

But can pursing a career in the arts really make you jobless?

Well, the business insider cited a study by a company named beyond.com called “The Multi-Generational Job Search, only 2 percent of employers hired liberal arts majors, compared to 18 percent who hired business majors.

With the possibility of not finding a job as soon as her business college mates Kazak remains optimistic. “ I choose Literature in the first place because it widens one’s horizons and gives us access to worlds that are foreign to us and we can only know by the personal experience that literature has to offer.”

“ People are searching for mundane, routinized jobs it is an economy based on profit making.” Says Dr. Tabar, “ art is not a good business it is a bad investment.”

“ Since the people enrolled in English are so little, we can not open all the required classes,” says Dr. Rula Diab is Associate Professor of English/Applied Linguistics.

“ But we do open tutorial courses but usually, only as few as one or two register for them,”

In the fall of 2013, only one student was enrolled in philosophy, Nora Adlouni, a finance major, envies him/her. “ Wow I wish I had his/her courage.” She exclaims.