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COMMENTARY: Rutgers Business stifles individuality

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Rutgers Business School does not appreciate the individuality of a student. 

There is a constant effort in this school to create a certain type of student, leading to a sense of business school culture. There are common values all business students should uphold, there is a standard way they must dress and there is even a common post-graduation job to want. 

All of these "values" are drilled into students through their course list and discussions with the business school faculty. What is alarming is not the fact that a common culture is being created in this school, it is that students who embrace their own values and stay true to their own brand are subjected to harsh treatment.

I am a Rutgers Business School sophomore, and before recently I was blind to this issue. In the middle of October, I did something truly radical by the school’s standards: I dyed my hair blue. 

I have had jet black hair my whole life, always wanting to change it up. One October night I was at Walgreens and the hair dye just looked like a good idea. I grabbed it and checked out. I dyed my hair later in the evening, not thinking about how the quality of my education would soon spiral.

The business forum class is one that teaches you the ins and outs of the business world, how to navigate it and how to succeed in it. Although it has been tagged as an easy A, it is the very essence of the business school and vital to a business student’s success post-graduation. 

It was a Monday when I approached Lucy Stone Hall to attend my class. I really loved my new hair, especially after a trip to the salon to fix what I tried to do with box dye. As I walked into the lecture hall, I was approached by the professor. 

“What did you do that for?” he said, pointing to my hair “Is it for homecoming or something?” I said, “No, I just did it because I like it.” A general look of confusion sat on my professor’s face as he walked away. 

This was not the end. Ever since my "act of rebellion," this same professor has singled me out in a large lecture hall at every class meeting. “I feel like I should have you go and stand in front of the class,” “Hey you, yeah you, blue,” “I have never seen a business student do this before.” 

Over the period of a few classes I have turned into the lecture’s enigma, with class frequently turning into a series of back-and-forth between the professor and me discussing the color of my hair. 

What is most interesting is that before dyeing my hair the professor spoke to me only once, complimenting my "fun socks." But since the color change, everything I do in class is put under the microscope.

“Are those marijuana leaves on your tie?” the same professor asked while pointing to pink, three-petaled flowers embroidered on my tie. This professor is so quick to assume the worst of my every action. 

Two weeks ago, I arrived early to class and was reading my book before class had started, “What are you reading?” the professor asked. “A book for class,” I said. “Did you say a bullshit book?” he shockingly asked. 

It seemed that due to my hair he was predisposed to only seeing false, negative and fabricated images and sounds in his mind from innocent actions. 

Confirming my suspicions, this professor has admitted to holding a bias against me. After I raised my hand in lecture to speak on the ethics of Boeing’s production of the 737 MAX and the Congressional proceedings, this same professor asked to speak to me at the end of class. 

He told me that he was impressed with what I presented, noting that I conduct myself more professionally than I look. “I have to get used to looking at you and realizing you know your stuff," he said.

A very nice backhanded compliment. My contribution to the class discussion was minimal, and no complex thought came from my recitement of fact, yet the professor pulled me aside to speak about it. 

In his perception of me, the bar has been set so low due to my hair color that a simple statement of a few facts from an article I have read inspired him to single me out once again. 

Unfortunately, that revelation is not where the story ends. As the blue in my hair fades and my roots grow in, I have been unsuccessful in returning to my previous standing in the class, being quietly present in lecture. 

Receiving my education in that class has become synonymous to me with defending my self-expression. Such blatant attacks on my expression are very telling of Rutgers Business School's desire for students to conform to a norm that they have curated. 

While a common culture can be comforting and helpful to some, discriminating on the basis of whether students conform to it is not appropriate. 

Action must be taken to ensure that Rutgers Business School becomes one that is more accepting of diversity in thought, expression and identity. 

Sahand Barazesh is a Rutgers Business School sophomore. 

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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