Engineering school prank sparks outrage after labelling arts as 'easy'

Engineering school prank sparks outrage after labelling arts as 'easy'
Photo credit: Twitter/ Luke Goode

A joke slide in a University of Canterbury Engineering lecture has sparked outrage, after it implied that taking an arts subject was the "easy" option.

The slide said "If engineering was easy, they'd call it arts instead", a sentiment that did not impress University of Auckland arts lecturer Luke Goode, when he learned of the claim on Wednesday evening.

He tweeted his frustration, saying it was disappointing to see another lecturer condoning students making fun of other disciplines.

"Dear Canterbury Uni NZ Arts colleagues: apparently this is how your Engineering colleagues think it's appropriate to talk about you and your students to their new students."

His tweet ignited outrage among users of the website, many arguing the worth of one subject over another.

"Poetry and paintings live forever. Bridges collapse," one user wrote.

"This is a standard joke amongst engineers...not sure what the problem is," said another.

But Dr Goode says the controversy overshadowed his original intentions with the tweet.

"The slide was no doubt meant as a harmless joke, but it is dispiriting to see that prejudice encouraged among students," he said.

"Unfortunately, the tweet generated much futile bickering about which academic subjects are 'harder' and which students are 'smarter'.

"The real issue I was trying to raise was the importance of mutual respect for the different skills and contributions of all subjects.

"Dialogue and collaboration across disciplines is vital for creating a smarter society. As academics, myself included, we should all be working harder to facilitate that."

The University of Canterbury says the slide was taken out on of context and the lecturer actually followed up with a comment that they would probably find an arts degree difficult.

Arts pro-vice-chancellor Professor Jonathan Le Cocq and engineering pro-vice-chancellor Professor Jan Evans-Freeman said both colleges collaborate frequently and arts is important in engineering.

"The Colleges of Arts and Engineering are proud to be able to work closely in a number of cross-campus programmes," they said, in a joint statement.

"The Engineering College student advisors also actively encourage students to take arts courses to broaden their perspectives.

"Everyone recognises that the humanities and social sciences are important in engineering, as we move into 5G communication and towards artificial intelligence."