So yesterday afternoon I was at the econometrics lab, hanging out with Mary and reading some more for the Marx essay. I need to realize this in a more frequent basis. Econ majors are humans, too. They are humans, and nice, and greedy, and neat, and sentimental, and humanly, and right-winged, and smart, and methodical, and snobby, and, and.. well. I really have to admire the diversity that the econ department gets to achieve. About 40% of the skin surface I get to see at Carnegie third is not white! Wow, that’s something.
Anyway.. so I was sitting there and reading and checking my email for replies from possible subleasers and professor Kollasch walked in and said hi to everybody and it was very cosmopolitan and she took pictures of some people for her course page. She looked at me, and was like, “Wow, a new face! Are you an econ major, too?” And I smiled and shook my head.. but she insisted, so I went “Oh no, I am writing my Marx essay!” And waved the Marx-Engels reader triumphantly in the air. (It didn’t have a red cover nor a hammer and sickle, though) That convinced her and she went back.. to her office I think.
The lab is real cool. It’s got twenty iMacs neatly arranged in six rows, and they’ve all got OS X with the visual commodities and although one of the girls was complaining it was too slow, it was ok to me. Well, quicker than my laptop. Most people had earplugs and had real loud music plugged to them, mostly disco style. If you were sitting next to them you could hear all the beats across the plugs. There’s a large projector screen in the front, and a humongous whiteboard, to straighten up the race imbalance.
The atmosphere was real supportive – about eight people were working at the lab, and occassionally somebody bursted out “Oh my god how do you make the linear regression!” and immediately one or two peers would scramble for help. People were making light jokes constantly, most likely out of the high level of stress (their econometrics paper was due Friday – in fact, they are working in the lab in this very moment).
They need to work on the lab computers because they need to use this bizarre analysis software that is copyrighted and the department has bought a group license for the lab computers. Throughout the semester, the lab stays up till 10:00pm and students may stay afterwards indefinitely (there is card access, just like bio or chem labs). However, I observed that most of the people weren’t really working with the software per se, but on regular word documents and excel spreadsheets; it was more the professional-ish environment and the feeling of “we’re all in the same boat” that keeps them in the lab. Plus, the lab has an entrance towards the hallway and another towards the econ dept lounge, so professors know who’s working at the lab and who’s not, and how long they’re staying, etc.. that might work as a psychological deterrent.
I also saw the Econ dept news board. While I understand that they scrapbooked the guy going to Harvard Law since he’s an econ major, I don’t quite see the connection between that Ian, who interned at Microsoft, or other random seniors who were featured in the admissions bulletin. Maybe the dept secretary believes that the principles class they took in their first year have branded them for life? Or maybe it’s really about the equation econ dept=that thing at mac; anything that happens at Mac=econ dept news. Of course the The Economist article criticizing Naomi Klein as a little adolescent who needs to grow up (and get a job, to paraphrase the old man) was highlighted in the hallway bulletin. Of course, the golden plaques with names of random students at this or that knowledge bowl or fellowship were all enlisted in the walls. The professor’s offices weren’t as pretentious as I imagined them to be, though – just little name tags with relevant news for their courses.
Overall, visiting the dept & the metrics lab was a rewarding experience, reminded me of the human condition of all us mortals, gave me a chance to observe the need for a distinction (the “prize”) prevalent at the dept., and was an opportunity to examine the environment in which future generations of right-wingers of the reformist sort breed.
I have enjoyed the rain throughly. What a fragrance. So much green leaflet rugged against the asphalt. Refreshing.